Thule Vectros Hard Shell Case for MacBooks

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air
Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

Anyone who travels with A laptop spends time worrying about the safety of their computer on the road. When that computer is expensive, and the lynchpin of your business. It becomes critical to protect it at any cost.

Protecting your work computer is vital

My recent purchase of a MacBook Air to replace a five year old ASUS Zenbook was a big investment. I do not change computers frequently, so protecting the asset became an immediate priority.

I purchased the Thule Vectros 13″ bumper case. This is a black hard shell polycarbonate bumper that fits top and bottom with an inner component that is ribbed silicone. It provides a substantial thickness of padding around the outside, but is open in the center, with optional clear inserts to protect the top and bottom. I left the bottom skin off, swapping scratch protection for better cooling.

The bumper design provides a “lip” around the outside of the device that allows a good grip on the hard polycarbonate exterior. It is designed to survive a one meter (3’3″) drop with no damage. The web site provides a graphic comparison video of a Mac being dropped onto a corner with and without the case. I recommend a look at the video, if you have doubts.

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

The inner, soft silicon insert protrudes to provide four sturdy soft feet that give a good grip on any surface.

The case has very positive locking lugs to keep it attached to the computer. Make no mistake, installing and removing this case is an exercise in fear. It must be installed exactly according to the instructions. It will not fly off when the case is dropped. It has a positive latch on the lid, so it will not open when dropped. The top and bottom shells transmit pressure around the case, protecting the computer. I suspect it will protect from a significant amount of pressure, even someone inadvertently sitting on a backpack or case with a laptop inside. I do not suggest trying it, but this is one very tough bumper case.

The Thule Vectors Case is no compromise protection

My only problem was that the case does not provide holes for the dual microphones on the left side of the 2015 MacBook Air. I had to drill through the case in two spots, and then remove the soft silicone material from the inside with a scalpel.

I loved this case, but adds 401 grams or 6.6 ounces to the weight of the laptop. It increases the height of the closed MacBook Air to 2.6 cm or 1 inch. This is a significant addition. The case cannot be added and removed. Once on, it takes five minutes of careful work to get it off without damaging the MacBook. It is all or nothing.

Thule Vectros Case For MacBook Air

If I were permanently on the road, the Thule Vectros bumper case would be my constant companion. I really do like it! The engineering and manufacture are second to none. It fits perfectly and looks great. It also makes the laptop stand out in a coffee shop or shared workspace. No-one is going to walk off with this computer un-noticed.

Another side effect of the shell is that if you want to anonymise your computer, it is easy to insert a photo, or otherwise cover the Apple logo on the lid. The case disguises the distinctive MacBook shape, making it less of a target for theft.

If you are looking for a sleeve rather than a case, I recommend the Thule Gauntlet zip up sleeve. It is cheaper, lighter, and offers good protection, including a waterproof zipper. It can be found here:  Thule Gauntlet TAS-113 13.3″ MacBook Pro and Retina Display Sleeve (Black)

Saving Web Pages for Later from Chrome, Firefox and Safari

The Web - The Best Research Tool
The Web – The Best Research Tool

The web is a wonderful asset for writers and researchers. It is the ultimate research tool. But how do we save what we find for later?

The problem is keeping the information at our fingertips for later access. This is especially a problem if we work some of the time with no internet connection. Perhaps on a plane or train, or in a remote location where WiFi or Internet is expensive,  limited, unsafe or simply unavailable.

If you work on a Chromebook, this is an even bigger problem, because there are fewer options to store web pages and research material offline. But there are ways.

The three best ways to save web pages and web based notes offline.

  1. Evernote Web Clipper

Clip to EvernoteIf you are an Evernote user, this is a bit of a no-brainer. Evernote has the brilliant Evernote Web Clipper. It allows web content to be clipped in a number of formats and saved to Evernote.

Clipped articles can be saved in specific folders, and you can add tags.

Clip to EvernoteA particularly nice feature is the ability to highlight text on the page before it is saved. Selecting snippets of text allows you to colour them.

It is also possible to select a range of text in an article BEFORE clicking the save button on the toolbar, and save only that text to Evernote.

Clip to EvernoteThe downside of using Evernote is the fact that it cannot be accessed offline unless you have access to the Evernote App on Windows, Mac, Android or iOS. On a Chromebook, you will need to have the Evernote Android App installed, and that, at this time, is less than perfect on Chrome OS. This should improve over the next few months at the Android store rolls out to all capable Chrome OS devices.

2  Save to Pocket.

Save to PocketPocket is a free service (with a premium option) that allows pages to be saved and viewed on the Pocket web site, or in the Pocket app on Android and iOS or using a Chrome plugin. All work offline, as long as you have downloaded the latest content before going offline.

Save to PocketIt has fewer options than Evernote Web Clipper, but it is reliable, but allows tagging after saving.

3 Save to Keep

Save to KeepThis is a very simple and fast plugin that saves the URL of the page you are looking at and selected text to Keep.

Keep works offline, but the save option only saves the URL and a simple snapshot of the header. It will also save highlighted text. If you simply want to capture a thought or paragraph, this is a great option.

Save to KeepRemember though, it is text only, formatting disappears.

It is excellent for quickly saving things, but is not much use if you want a full article with images and formatting offline. It definitely has a place in my toolkit though.

These are the tools I use. They all work on Chrome, Safari and Firefox. You should be able to get them working on pretty much any platform.

There are others, including Sent to Kindle and Shareaholic that I have tried in the past.

The save to Kindle plugin works well in Chrome, but provides a text only capture. It also requires a Kindle reader to be installed on a tablet or phone, it ignores Chrome, Windows and macOS readers.

The Shareaholic plugin also works well with multiple sites, but is more of a social sharing tool that a save tool.

Please let me know what you use in the comments.

I Bought a MacBook Air – Hell Just Froze Over…

MacBook Air 13"When I walked in the door with an expensive white box under my arm, my son, a writer, raised his eyes to the ceiling and announced loudly “Hell has frozen over…”

“Hell has frozen over…”

Why did I move to a 2015 Apple MacBook Air 13”, after using Windows PCs from Windows 3.11 onwards? I have made a living as a Windows software developer, system administrator, tech support person and more for decades.

I have long been aware of the limitations and failings of Windows. It has been a treasure trove of bugs, zero-day exploits, crashes and malware. Unscrupulous developers have become rich selling anti-virus software, registry cleaners, disk defragmenters and optimisers, firewalls and more. Computer companies, including mine, have made a good living removing viruses and installing expensive anti-virus software, and answering simple questions like “should I turn off macros in Office?”.

Some years ago, I discovered Linux as an alternative. It is fast, reliable and safe. It runs on old hardware. Linux has software that does what almost everything that can be done on Windows. Almost.

So for the last decade I have had a back and forth love affair with Windows and Linux, often dual booting my computers back and forth for features the other O/S lacked. Only my use of Google Docs prevented loss of data when switching constantly, but things did get lost between the cracks…

I discovered Chromebooks, and realised I could do everything a normal computer user does on a Chromebook, with no drama, and at a fraction of the cost. But there were a few limits. I worked around many, and went back to Windows or Linux for the few exceptions.

Windows 10Then came Windows 10. I have tried Windows 8 and 8.1 and not been fond of either of them. I installed Windows 10 on three laptops, looking to a better future. Each one had driver issues, overheating, power consumption issues or other problems. I reverted them all back to Windows 7. Microsoft began pushing Windows 10 silently back onto each machine. This was infuriating because I had gone to the trouble of downloading and burning both 64 and 32 Bit USB installers, to save my precious and expensive bandwidth.

My internet data usage ballooned… I wrote about my frustrations on my blog here: 

Ultimately, I decided to sleep with the enemy…

I bought a 2015 MacBook Air (It was a lot cheaper than a Dell XPS 13 and about the same price as the gorgeous Dell Chromebook 13 7310 here in Australia).I am tech savvy, so it has not been too difficult, but it has not been easy. But with one or two exceptions, it has been painless and smooth. And the operating system stays in the background.

I now see no reason EVER to go back to a Windows computer. If I don’t have a Windows computer, I will never want a Windows phone, despite being impressed by many things Microsoft is (finally) doing with Windows phone.

I do have a broken HP Laptop with no hard-drive. If I need to copy massive amounts of data across the network, I boot it from an Ubuntu Live CD, do the job, and put it back in the garage, OS X is slow on file transfers… Other than that, it is smooth and easy. Sometimes I have to search for features. But when you look, the most mundane looking OS X app has amazing hidden features. It will take me years to learn them all, but in the meantime, the 80% I use is easy to find and reliable.

And most of the open-source programs I love and use are available on the Mac as well as Windows and Linux. More about that later!

For me, the War is over. It is Apple OS X and Google Chrome OS all the way.

So Long Microsoft, and Thanks For All The Fish.

I am sure you will enjoy Why I Abandoned Windows, After 23 Years.

Why I Abandoned Windows, After 23 Years.

Windows 10Microsoft’s push to force Windows 10 on every user, want it or not, has,for me, poisoned a 34 year relationship with Microsoft, and a 23 year relationship with Windows.

I loved Windows ‘95, XP and 7. I was a developer and beta tester, and got invited to several launches. I met Bill Gates.

I lived through Windows ME, Vista, and 8. I forgave the promise and failure of “Cairo” and “Longhorn”, Magical Windows advances that never came.

My loyalty wavered with the Windows XP “Windows Genuine Advantage” fiasco, where hundreds of thousands of honest users had systems hosed because they had re-installed Windows XP at some time from the wrong disk (there was no licence verification before this, you just typed in the code on the box, and many companies bought multiple copies of Windows XP, and installed or re-installed from the one disk the tech. carried around in his bag)

Suddenly they were all asked to pay for a new copy of XP, simply because a friend had fixed their PC with HIS copy of Windows XP. A badly thought out money grab. If they did not pay, trouble for the user ensued.

I began experimenting with Linux. Linux is fast, reliable, and has a LOT of good, free software. But it has issues. Manufacturers of printers, scanners, video cards, web cameras, and a myriad of other devices write drivers and software for Windows, because it is the bulk of the market. The Linux community have to write their own drivers for most devices, and the do it because they want to use the device themselves. If you have a scanner no-one has heard of, it probably will have problems with Linux. Some major companies such as NVIDIA seen to enjoy making it hard for Linux users. Popular apps like Evernote do not work on Linux. As a result Linux is perfect 99% of the time, but the 1% is the problem. There is always ONE tool I really want that does not work in Linux, and calls me back to Windows.

Enter the Clowns, Windows 10.

I was SO looking forward to Windows 10. This would be the solution to the nightmare of Windows 8.0 brought on the world by Steven Sinofsky, who refused to listen to anyone who did not share his vision of forcing a huge change in the look and feel of Windows. He decided to ship it as he wanted, and simply “let them eat cake”. It did not work for Marie-Thérèse, and did not work for Steven Sinofsky, who was shown the door shortly after Windows 8 shipped.

I have stuck tenaciously to Windows 7, a reliable and familiar interface, usually dual-booting into a Linux system. Windows 10 would bring back the familiar look, be lighter, more secure, and faster.

I am bandwidth limited. I have great internet speed at home, but am often on the road. I downloaded the Windows 10 ISO and burned bootable USB sticks for 32 and 64 Bit Windows 10. I installed it on two laptops, and immediately hit problems. Drivers did not work. Battery life plummeted. I spend a lot of time on the road, battery life is important. Bluetooth keyboards and mice, and WiFi network connections are vital. These had problems.

I rolled Windows 10 back on my Ultrabook. Happily back on Windows 7, I planned to give Windows 10 time to fix itself…

Or not…

Then Microsoft began it’s reign of terror.

Update Now!The “Reserve your copy now!” flag in the system tray went to a recommended update. Then Microsoft began silently downloading it (all 3+ Gigabytes of it) to a hidden folder, so when you decided to update, it would be there. If you deleted the folder, Microsoft started the download again, silently. As How-To Geek noted, Update Now went from “Yes or No” to “Now or Tonight”

Remember, I have already downloaded this OS as an ISO, and used a USB installer. I HAVE IT ALREADY, but Microsoft keeps pushing it down, over and over again, to every Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 device.

If you are a Digital Nomad living on coffee shop WiFi, you will have a battle with this. If you are a Grey Nomad (Snowbird in the USA) and are on the road using your phone as a WiFi hotspot and paying serious money for data, you are in a world of hurt. If you are the young, often homeless friend of mine trying to get off the street with a book deal using MacDonalds and library WiFi to send manuscripts and e-mail, you are screwed.

You CANNOT stop this. There are tools to stop the downloads. There is advice on changing settings to stop the updates. They work for a while, but Microsoft keeps bypassing everything, and forcing another download. People who think they have stopped this process report that it turns itself back on within a couple of hours. And the average mom and pop user knows nothing about these options. IT JUST KEEPS COMING!

I owned an amazing 8” Chinese tablet. It had 3Gb of RAM, a 64 Bit Intel processor, and a 32Gb disk. It ran Windows 8.1 and Android with a dual boot option. The constant downloads forced me to try Windows 10. The updater told me my device was compatible. The 32Gb disk was filling. I was running out of precious disk space, and my tablet was crashing.

I decided to upgrade. Big mistake.

The installer worked, the device rebooted. The on-screen keyboard put characters all over the place. it was impossible to even log in. The touch-screen was not working properly. I tried reboots, USB keyboards, and everything else, I could not login. After an hour of trying, I actually managed to get access.There was no rollback option. Reboots where impossible. the option to boot back to the 4Gb Android partition was gone.

After many hours of work, I smashed the tablet in frustration, and dropped it in the Recycling bin.

Microsoft’s scorched earth “Nothing but Windows 10” policy is hurting people, again and again.

And if you get Windows 10 working OK, you have no way to keep it that way.

Microsoft has decided that all updates are required. There are NO optional updates. Unless you are a corporate user, there is no way to hold, stop or postpone updates. Everything is quietly installed. In the end of 2015 the Windows 10 1511 “Threshold” update was more that 3Gb. That is a big download if you are on limited bandwidth. And there is no way to stop it.

Windows 10? No thank you, Microsoft!

How have I responded to this last failure?

  • I have discovered that Chromebooks can do the bulk of what I need.
  • I refuse to help friends with Windows problems.
  • I have installed Windows 10 on the two Laptops in my office, and have sold them cheap. To my amazement, the woman who bought my Ultrabook wants me to install Linux Mint!
  • I have Bought a 13” 2015 MacBook Air laptop. It is now my main machine.
  • In four weeks, I have not found anything I cannot do on a Chromebook or a Mac.
  • I will NEVER again buy a computer with Windows on it. Goodby Microsoft.
  • My Windows device purchases have supplied two years of Office 365. I may use the OneDrive storage, temporarily. Or not… Given my current Microsoft antipathy, I guess not.

Along the way I have found that for some of my attempts to install Windows 7, I went back to the original media, installed that and then tried to update.

It appears Microsoft’s Windows 7 update system is patchy or not working.

In one case the new install kept looking for updates for two days before I gave up.

The free update to Windows 10 offer ends in a few months. What happens then?

People who have not availed themselves of the upgrade offer will be stuck with a crippled Windows 7 or 8.1 and no way to continue using it without constantly being harassed by Microsoft. But once they install Windows 10, their existing key will not work, and they will have to pay for the upgrade.

This will, in my opinion, take Microsoft’s push for world domination from harassment to blackmail.

Microsoft has finally realised it cannot ignore competing platforms. They have lost the mobile phone war. Their only hope for long term survival is to become relevant on other platforms including smartphones with software and services.

The Windows 10 land grab has left a bad taste in my mouth, and I am sure I am not alone. I will be forced, through business dealings, to use Microsoft file formats from time to time, but the range of software I can use for that is growing.

The days of using Microsoft Word to print faxes with company letterheads on them is fast fading. I got rid of my fax machine five years ago. My multifunction printer has fax capabilities, but I have never bothered to plug it into a phone socket.

Google Docs, ZoHo, LibreOffice, and a host of other tools can do the formatting I need. If Microsoft had allowed a slow transition to Windows 10, it would have come as people bought new PCs.

Microsoft may be surprised at how many people had never heard of Windows 10, didn’t even notice the upgrade now notifications, and have no interest in change.

Disrupting these often older people will not endear them to Microsoft when the wake up one morning and find the Windows 10 EULA on their screens after a recommended update.

If they say NO to the EULA, the already installed Windows 10 will attempt to roll back, removing the Gigabytes of installed files and trying to replace the originals. Often it works, but not always. And when it fails, the confused user is stuck with a poorly functioning computer, or even one that is completely hosed, thanks to Microsoft’s arrogance.

If they accept, Windows 10 will confuse them. It will probably kill or remove apps and drivers they have relied on for years. many cannot afford to pay a service technician to spend hours sorting their computers out for them. Many are on limited and expensive internet connections.

They rely on a computer to keep them in touch with family and friends. They use PCs to work as volunteers for clubs, groups and associations.

I have stopped counting the number of visits by family and friends that have turned into impromptu tech-support sessions. I am getting sick of it, and am now recommending they look at a Chromebook.

Their family will most likely move many of them to an iPad. Savvy family members will buy a Chromebook or Chromebox.

HP Chromebook 11If they go to a retailer, he will listen with sympathy, rub his hands together with glee, and point them at a Mac as something that just works, and not mention it has the highest commission for him.

The good news for me is that this has moved me to make a personal decision. One of my businesses has been closed with little fanfare, and I will be looking in a different direction. I like helping people, I love technology. The worst part of my business was the repetitious cleanup of infected Windows PCs. I will now focus on helping people in different ways.

Thank you Microsoft, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

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Old Hardware Never Dies, It Just Gets Recycled

Two Old Friends
Two Old Friends

I have spent the morning cleaning out some old hardware. A pair of desktop computers that have not been started up for four years or more.

I do not consider myself a hoarder, but letting go of old computer equipment is always hard.

Computers and technology tend to be big purchases. We invest in them.

In this case the machines were ones that I had built, rebuilt and upgraded by hand. I had used them as workstations, sitting for hours, days, weeks, months while they had whirred tirelessly away under the desk.

I wrote software and articles. Thousands of pieces of e-mail flowed across the screens. hours of music had played through the speakers.

Operating systems and software had been upgraded, replaced and, at times re-installed or wound back. Disk repair, defrag and backup software had kept them running many nights.

In each case they had become too slow for the latest software. They had been relegated to workgroup servers (an undemanding job in a small workgroup) and eventually were shelved as “backups” for newer machines.

Today their performance and capacity seems ludicrous, but each machine was a big investment, carefully chosen, and lovingly used.

I name my computers.

Old hardware never diesOver the years I have named computers after moons, characters from books and movies. Currently I am naming them after spacecraft and mars rovers. I am typing this on a Chromebox named Firefly, while my Chromebook, Viking recharges beside me.

These two were named Banichi and Jago. I will leave it for the sci-fi fans to figure out who they were named after.

Today they were carted into the back yard, minus disk drives, that will be destroyed, and added to a pile to go to the recycling depot as e-waste. Finding a home for them, minus keyboards and monitors is impractical.

I will not miss them, but I will remember them as old friends now departed.

00175 – Image Courtesy of Wilson Afonso

Beware – Microsoft is Downloading Windows 10 Without Asking

Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows

Windows 10 Screen

It is now becoming clear that Microsoft is silently pushing Windows 10 onto every PC running a current version of Windows. This is a huge 3 Gigabyte download, silently saved to a hidden folder on your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 computer.

For those with desktop computers and fast Internet connections this is little more than an annoyance. It may even be a benefit if you plan to upgrade soon.

If you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem.

But if you are a nomad, digital or grey, you have a problem. Nomads are often using very slow  or expensive metered data plans. Often public WiFi is all that is available. It may be free, but is often limited to 200 or 500 Megabytes per day.

Telstra’s pre-paid mobile data plans typically are 10$ per Gigabyte. Mobile plans start at $35 per Gigabyte. And heaven help anyone who is overseas and paying Telstra’s $3 per Megabyte roaming charges!

Microsoft is assuming everyone will want to upgrade sooner or later, so we might as well download it and hide it on your computer now.  This is, in my opinion and  egregious violation of people’s confidence and trust in the Microsoft upgrade process.

Microsoft told the Enquirer: “For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade.

“When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”

Many web sites say that by removing one Windows update, KB3035583 the process can be stopped. Unfortunately, this information is out of date. Microsoft has worked around that, and is once again starting the downloads.

If you are using Windows 8 or 8.1 you can set your connection to “Metered” and updates will wait. Microsoft has an article on Metered Internet Connections here

I can offer no easy solution for those on slow connections or Windows 7. There is one fix discussed on a Microsoft Forum, but it is technical, and a mistake may break your computer. Use it at your own peril.

I have decided that the best way to stop Windows 7 trying to download Windows 10 was to simply remove it.

I have installed Ubuntu 14.04, a version of Linux as a replacement on my only Windows PC. My ASUS UX31E Ultrabook cannot handle Windows 10 properly. Some drivers do not work, and It uses the battery too fast. I will try it again soon, but for now Linux is my Laptop operating system of choice.

Since I use my Chromebooks 95% of the time, this is not an issue for me.

If you Decide to Install Windows 10

If you have decided to go ahead and install Windows 10 despite the privacy and compatibility issues, there is an excellent video on Youtube that steps you through the changes necessary to regain some privacy. Check it out here:

Mobile Phone Distraction, and the Multi-tasking Myth

mobile phone?New Google President Sundar Pichai was recently ambushed interviewed by a rather aggressive interviewer from the New York Times about the increasingly intrusive nature of mobile phones. The interviewer was implying that it was the task of Google to make phones less distracting, intrusive and anti-social.

CONOR DOUGHERTY was obviously fishing for a quote on “phone intrusion“, and turned a real opportunity into an embarrassing attempted ambush. Sundar was too polite to tell him to move on, but I think from the editing of the interview and comments, that readers can see the trend in the questions.

His proposition is completely wrong. Everyone has control of their own phone. The apps used, and the way of using them is at the discretion of the user. We each can choose to mute alerts, close apps, or mute the phone completely.

If there is any case for intrusion, I think it is management expecting employees to stay connected to their jobs 24 x 7, via e-mail, text and phone simply because the technology is available. An example is Microsoft’s pitch for Office 365. It lets you keep working on vacation, at the kid’s recital, or over dinner.

The individual must make their own decision as to how they will respond for the welfare of themselves and their families.

The belief that we can “multi-task” if we are smart or young enough is completely incorrect. The mind focuses well only on one thing at a time. Creative people are familiar with the concept of “flow” or being “in the zone”. This is that wonderful place we go when the right side of the brain takes over what we are doing, and we become productive. Really productive. We also lose all track of time, and, often, our ability to speak is impaired.

Some companies are now hiring people based on their (percieved) ability to multi-task. And some use this mythical ability as a keystone of their resume. But the damage done by multi-tasking is now well documented.

The Guardian Newspaper quotes MIT’s Earl Miller as saying “People can’t do [multitasking] very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves.”

The constant distraction caused by interruptions of any type severely disrupt our ability to be productive. They can also annoy or offend others, in meetings or a social setting.

So:

  • Turn off phone notifications.
  • Let workmates know you do not reply to messages and e-mail instantly, but are batching it up to process at a set time each day.
  • Unless it is being used for notes, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY in meetings.
  • At business lunches, pile the phones up on top of each other in the middle of the table, and the first person to grab his phone pays for lunch.
  • Focus on one thing for 25 or 55 minutes, take a break, and move on to the next thing.

A smartphone is a powerful tool, and it can help us in many situations from navigating to an unfamiliar destination to providing weather, flight, and accommodation information. But if we allow to to distract us constantly with Twitter, e-mail, Facebook and Instagram notifications, we are becoming slaves to a device designed to help us.

If we do not control our phone It becomes our master, not our slave.

00164

Written by Phil Stephens of Philstephens.com.au .

Cloudbooks – The Worst of Both Worlds

wccf Dump Chromebooks - Really?
wccf Dump Chromebooks – Really?

A post on the Wccf Tech website suggests we should dump our Chromebooks and move to a Windows Cloudbook. The give four reasons, an I do not agree with any of them!

While Google’s Chrome OS is ideal in some circumstances, it is still not as feature riche as Windows 10.

  1. The Windows 10 Experience: Yes, Windows 10 is wildly superior to Windows 8 and 8.1 because it is usable. This might be new for Windows 8 users, but my Chromebook is unfailingly easy to use. Is Windows 10 feature rich? Yes. But that is not necessarily a selling point for many of us. I like simple and fast…
  2. The Hardware: The hardware is very similar to that of a Chromebook, but the “feature rich” Windows 10 operating system requires far more resources that a Chromebook. Most come with 16 or 32 GB of storage, so forget about installing or running Photoshop (Microsoft’s usual reason for saying Windows is essential) and on 16 GB of storage, forget about Microsoft Office. My Chromebook runs MUCH better on this hardware.
  3. Pricing is Dirt Cheap: True, so are Chromebooks, and Chromebook of a similar price works better. If a $10 price difference is important, go to eBay or a second hand shop!
  4. Getting Onedrive and Office 365 free for One Whole Year!: Yes 1 Tb of storage free is good, but after a year, you have to pay. And without Office 365 you have bought a brick. A Chromebook comes with free access to Google Docs, and you can always access 15 GB free, and have 100 GB for a year.

The suggestion that:

Cloudbook owners will receive 12 whole months of free OneDrive storage, along with an Office 365 subscription. That is a total of two services that you will be receiving from Microsoft while only one from Google.

Is inaccurate and ridiculous, because both of these services are free from Google, except for the (temporary) 1 TB of storage.

If you are a home user and really need 1 TB of cloud storage, I suggest you look at options other than Google or Microsoft. 15 GB is enough for most home or small business users. If you need more, you are in a different category altogether, and will not be looking at $150 computers as a cost saving measure.

For the average computer user, Cloudbooks are the WORST of both worlds.

Cloudbooks

For the average computer user, Cloudbooks are the WORST of both worlds. They are under-powered, and have the complexity of Windows, making them slow. They require updates, anti-virus software, and require the installation of many programs to make them useful.

They are prone to viruses, hacking and malware.

They cannot use Office 365 without a permanent internet connection, making them useless for Digital Nomads.

Chromebooks

My Chromebook (and Chromebox) can do almost everything offline. ( they just wait to sync, if offline) and are fast thanks to a stripped Linux kernel and minimal O/S overhead. Is it simple? Yes.  Does it work?  Yes.  Is it fast? Yes.

I watch/listen to media from, and save files to a local NAS server, or work from a USB key or Google Drive for days at a stretch without Internet.

The ability to write, use spreadsheets, presentations and more is built in, free, and works offline. Apps like Pocket, Stackedit and Gmail Offline allow me to work happily without a connection.

No contest here, Windows has a place, and I like Windows 10. If I need serious power and apps like video and audio editing, I go to Linux.

I am writing this on an ASUS UX31E Ultrabook running Ubuntu Linux, after taking Windows 10 off yesterday. It was nice, but not compelling for me. To many things don’t work yet! And Microsoft now is collecting a great deal of information about me. Too much? No, Google collects the same information, but they do not then charge me for the service, they just show me ads!

But a Cloudbook? This is a Netbook with another name, and will go the way of the Netbooks. I do not need one of these fail whales.

00169

Written by Phil Stephens of Philstephens.com.au .

A Light, USB Powered AA/AAA Battery Charging Solution

soshine AA charger
soshine AA charger

If there is one given in the portable office, it is the need for batteries and ways to charge them. The AA/AAA battery is a staple power source for many devices from mice and keyboards to a myriad of older devices. I have made a conscious decision to use as  many USB charged or powered devices as possible, but still wireless mice and keyboards are among the last holdouts in my mobile office.

For years I have used desktop or wall mounted multi-channel charger. The traditional multi-channel charger is heavy, often noisy, and for me, prone to failure. My last four-channel charger has gaffer tape over a dead third channel.

I have found the perfect solution, the SoShine LiFePO4 USB powered  charger. It charges a single AA/AAA Nickel Metal Hydride (NMH)  or Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4, LFE) battery.

It is small, light, and fast. It uses the less popular Mini-USB plug, but a cable (USB Type A to Mini USB is supplied) so it can be charged from any USB Charger, laptop or power bank. I now have two of these in my mobile office. They are fast and smart. They do a check of battery condition, and if the battery is no good, they stop and display a single red light. I have also had one shut down charging because I inserver the battery the wrong way round (Duh!).
They are small and light, so slipping two into my travel office is no problem.

If you are using old NiCad, you are out of luck, though… If you are, time to upgrade!

00168

How to Avoid RSI When Mobile Working

Every coffee shop, train and park bench is filled with people (mostly, but not always) young, working on laptop computers.

The smartphone and tablet have become the consumption device of choice, but except for quick email, notes and checking appointments, we need a laptop computer of one type or another.

An ugly, but as yet little discussed side effect of using laptop computers, especially (shock, horror) on your lap, is the damage you can be doing to your body and hands.

In the 70’s and 80’s millions of dollars were spend on the design of office workstations. Standards and rules were developed. Injuries were reduced, and the people rejoiced (well, not that perhaps) but injuries fell dramatically. Then came the laptop. And much of that work went out the window, with the office…

For digital nomads and mobile workers the idea of a workstation is not on the radar.

Think Again – You Have A Workstation!

Your Workstation is the place you sit down (or stand up) and work from. It may be a coffee shop, bar stool, airplane seat or hammock, but if you work there for more than 10 minutes, it is a workstation. And it needs some thought.

A recent survey in the UK found that 79% of people using mobile devices were having health problems, 10% said “nomadic Working” had created long term problems and 5% had been forced to give up their jobs.http://www.dynamicmarkets.co.uk/

RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is not associated with age, it is associated with hours in front of a keyboard. ( in some areas The term ‘RSI’ has been replaced by ‘CANS’: Complaints of Arm, Neck and/or Shoulder, but RSI is best known)

It is very easy to make a mistake. Especially digital nomads who tend to be young. You are young, active and healthy, and then, suddenly, you are not.

Then it can take months or years to fix even the simplest problems, because you cannot work without aggravating the problem. Imagine not being able to type (at all) for 3 months. How is that online business looking now?

So, lets look at the solution.

The Workstation

The “Workstation” is your whole working environment. For Mobile Office users, the basics are this:

  • Avoid glare on the screen
  • Have the top of your screen at about eye level
  • Have your arms nearly horizontal to the keyboard
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor
  • Your hips should be slightly above your knees
  • You should be reasonably upright, with the chair supporting your back (or no back, forcing you to sit/stand straight)
  • You should be able to read the screen without leaning forward or back. If necessary, get reading glasses specially for the computer.

If you have nothing but a laptop, you are screwed have a problem.

One solution is to raise the screen or back of the laptop with a stand. The options here are endless, so I will not offer a suggestion. It can be a simple as a pair of socks or a glasses case.

The best solution is a stand, keyboard and mouse. This may seem like an impossible load for a digital nomad, but it is not.

* more to follow*


Tablets and smartphones

iPad neck or tech neckhttp://iospress.metapress.com/content/x668002xv6211041/fulltext.pdf

http://www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk/laptops-a-pain-184-news.aspx On its excellent page on Perfect PC Posture, the British Chiropractic Association says “Never sit at the computer for more than 40 minutes; less if possible,”

My personal approach is to use the widely recognised Pomodoro technique that requires working for 25 minutes and the taking a 5 minute break. I have tools in place to reinforce this approach.

* Take breaks*

Some excellent resources on this subject:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2013/jun/20/using-laptops-tablets-physical-pains

http://www.utwente.nl/hr/en/health-safety-environment/health-welfare/rsi/students/using-the-laptop/

http://www.rsitips.com/laptop-ergonomics/

WSJ Youtube video:

(637 words)

Written with StackEdit.http://www.nomadicnotes.com/news/7-june-2015/