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Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

From the Wall Street Journal

A sign at Naidre’s, a small neighborhood coffee shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., begins warmly: “Dear customers, we are absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day…”

But, it continues, “…people gotta eat, and to eat they gotta sit.” At Naidre’s in Park Slope and its second location in nearby Carroll Gardens, Wi-Fi is free. But since the spring of 2008, no laptops have been allowed between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekends, unless the customer is eating and typing at the same time.

Amid the economic downturn, there are fewer places in New York to plug in computers. As idle workers fill coffee-shop tables — nursing a single cup, if that, and surfing the Web for hours — and as shop owners struggle to stay in business, a decade-old love affair between coffee shops and laptop-wielding customers is fading. In some places, customers just get cold looks, but in a growing number of small coffee shops, firm restrictions on laptop use have been imposed and electric outlets have been locked. The laptop backlash may predate the recession, but the recession clearly has accelerated it.

“You don’t want to discourage it, it’s a wonderful tradition,” says Naidre’s owner Janice Pullicino, 53 years old. A former partner in a computer-graphics business, Ms. Pullicino insists she loves technology and hates to limit its use. But when she realized that people with laptops were taking up seats and driving away the more lucrative lunch crowd, she put up the sign. Last fall, she covered up some of the outlets, describing that as a “cost-cutting measure” to save electricity.

So far, this appears to be largely a New York phenomenon, though San Francisco’s Coffee Bar does now put out signs when the shop is crowded asking laptop users to share tables and make space for other customers.

Some coffee shops say they still welcome laptop users, if only because they make the stores look busy. For some, the growing number of laptop-carrying customers with time on their hands is reason to expand. “I had to add more outlets and higher speed” in early June, says Sebastian Simsch, 40, the co-owner of Seattle Coffee Works. Starbucks Corp. coffee houses, which in some cases charge for Wi-Fi, and bookstore chain Borders Group Inc., which always charges for Wi-Fi, don’t have any plans to change their treatment of laptop customers. Neither does bookstore giant Barnes & Noble Inc., where the Wi-Fi is complimentary.

But in New York, the trend is accelerating among independents. At Cocoa Bar locations in Brooklyn and on the Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a five-month-old rule forbids laptops after 8 on Friday and Saturday nights. At Espresso 77 in Jackson Heights, Queens, owners covered three of five electric outlets six months ago after its loosely enforced laptop-use restrictions failed to encourage turnover. At two of three Café Grumpy locations — one in Brooklyn and the other in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood — laptops are never welcome.

Laptop backlash poses particular difficulties for people without offices, says Leah Meyerhoff, 29, a film director and free-lancer. She long has used coffee shops to interview cast and crew and to work on pre-production. Now, she says, “it’s a constant search for places with the Internet where I can sit and focus without being frowned upon.”

“Good luck staying open when you’re turning half your clientele out on a Friday night,” Hannah Moots, 23, wrote about Cocoa Bar on Yelp, a Web site where customers rate retailers. When Ms. Moots, who aspires to be an archaeologist, met her boyfriend at the coffee shop after 8 p.m. on a Friday to work on graduate-school applications, she was ushered out, she says, even though the place was almost empty.

“We had to power down or leave instantly,” Ms. Moots wrote in her blog. She left and went to a different cafe, where she later expressed her dismay on the Web. Masoud Soltani, a Cocoa Bar owner, confirms that he sent her a Yelp message: “I remember you very well…I would not think you would write such bad stuff about us.” Mr. Soltani says she is no longer welcome in his store.

Customers’ frugality has reached extremes in the recession, the 40-year-old Mr. Soltani says. Some patrons show up with a tea bag for a free hot-water refill or quietly unwrap homemade sandwiches, he says. The Soltani brothers tried to adapt by adding sandwiches to their assortment of pastries and chocolates two months ago. And they want to be able to change the atmosphere after dark. “We lower the light, and it’s chocolate, wine and couples holding hands,” says Masoud’s brother Bahman. “What’s the guy with the laptop doing here?”

Some customers are sympathetic. Norm Elrod was “devastated,” he wrote on his blog — called “Jobless and Less” — when he spotted “little plastic covers on the electrical outlets, secured with little padlocks” at Espresso 77. “But I knew why they had done it,” the 37-year-old unemployed marketing manager says.

“I used to be one of the abusers,” Mr. Elrod confesses on his blog, “sipping a two-dollar cup of coffee in a to-go cup for hours.” But, he says in an interview, now he practices what he considers better coffee-shop etiquette, lingering over his laptop during off-hours and spending more money.

At Café Grumpy in Chelsea, Ty-Lör Boring, a 32-year-old chef, says he often uses his laptop at coffee shops, but loves it when there are none around because, then, people talk to one another.

“You can isolate yourself behind a laptop,” he says, “but look at this place: Almost everyone is having a conversation.”

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TUAW Exclusive: Aaron Patzer on the future of mobile finance, Mint.com, and Quicken on the Mac.

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The Case AGAINST the iPAD

Apple released a new product, called the iPad, yesterday. For those of you who don’t spend your days glued to Twitter, you can view all the details at Apple’s website. I’m not impressed. I’m a lifelong Mac fanboy, so I’m not averse to buying Apple stuff. But I have two problems with the device: first, I don’t understand who this product is marketed to. And second, I’m disappointed that Apple has decided to adopt the iPhone’s locked-down platform strategy.

It’s not clear who has an urgent need for this device. Apple’s existing product lines — Macs, iPods, and iPhones — are all focused on common activities that virtually everyone does. Most people listen to music and make phone calls. Most people need a full-scale computer. In contrast, it’s not clear what the core purpose of an iPad is. It’s too limited to fully replace a laptop — who wants to type long emails on a virtual keyboard? It’s too big and heavy to replace an iPod or an iPhone. And it’s just not clear that someone who already has a MacBook and an iPod will shell out another $500-800 for a third device.

I think the primary intended use of the iPad is as an eBook reader. But here too, the iPad falls short. Dedicated eBook raeders like the Kindle use e-ink which has two key characteristics: phenomenally long battery life and superior readability in bright light. E-Books are a nice “extra” feature for a tablet computer to have, but if that’s the primary thing people want to do, they should buy a Kindle.

My second problem with the iPad is more fundamental: The iPad appears to be Steve Jobs’s attempt to roll back the multi-decade trend toward more open computing platforms. Jobs’s vision of the future is one that revolves around a series of proprietary “stores” — for music, movies, books, and so forth — controlled by Apple. And rather than running the applications of our choice, he wants to limit users to running Apple-approved software from the Apple “app store.”

I’ve written before about the problems created by the iPhone’s top-down “app store.” The store is an unnecessary bottleneck in the app development process that limits the functionality of iPhone applications and discourages developers from adopting the platform. Apple has apparently chosen to extend this policy — as opposed to the more open Mac OS X policy — to the iPad.

With the iPhone, you could at least make the argument that its restrictive application approval rules guaranteed the reliability of the iPhone in the face of tight technical constraints. The decision not to allow third-party apps to multitask, for example, ensures that a misbehaving app won’t drain your iPhone’s battery while it runs in the background. And the approval process makes it less likely that a application crash could interfere with the core telephone functionality.

But these considerations don’t seem to apply to the iPad. Apple is attempting to pioneer a new product category, which suggests that reliability is relatively less important and experimentation more so. If a misbehaving application drains your iPad battery faster than you expected, so what? If you’re reading an e-book on your living room couch, you probably have a charger nearby. And it’s not like you’re going to become stranded if your iPad runs out of batteries the way you might without your phone. On the other hand, if the iPad is to succeed, someone is going to have to come up with a “killer app” for it. There’s a real risk that potential developers will be dissuaded by Apple’s capricious and irritating approval process.

The iPad also has a proprietary dock connector, a headphone jack, and no other ports. The net effect of this is, again, to give Apple complete control over the platform’s evolution, because the only way for third-party devices to connect to the iPad is through the proprietary dock connector. Again, this made a certain amount of sense on the iPhone, where space, weight, and ergonomics are at a premium. But it’s totally unacceptable for a device that aims to largely replace my laptop. Hell, even most video game consoles have USB ports.

The iPad book store looks like it has similar flaws. From all indications, the books you “buy” on an iPad will be every bit as limited as the books you “buy” on the Kindle; if you later decide to switch to another device, there’s no easy (or legal) way to take your books with you. I think this is an issue that a lot of Kindle owners haven’t thought through carefully, and that it will trigger a backlash once a significant number of them decide they’d like to try another device.

This is of a piece with the rest of Apple’s media strategy. Apple seems determined to replicate the 20th century business model of paying for copies of content in an age where those copies have a marginal cost of zero. Analysts often point to the strategy as a success, but I think this is a misreading of the last decade. The parts of the iTunes store that have had the most success — music and apps — are tied to devices that are strong products in their own right. Recall that the iPod was introduced 18 months before the iTunes Store, and that the iPhone had no app store for its first year. In contrast, the Apple TV, which is basically limited to only playing content purchased from the iTunes Store, has been a conspicuous failure. People don’t buy iPods and iPhones in order to use the iTunes store. They buy from the iTunes store because it’s an easy way to get stuff onto their iPods and iPhones.

Apple is fighting against powerful and fundamental economic forces. In the short term, Apple’s technological and industrial design prowess can help to prop up dying business models. But before too long, the force of economic gravity will push the price of content down to its marginal cost of zero. And when it does, the walls of Apple’s garden will feel a lot more confining. If “tablets” are the future, which is far from clear, I’d rather wait for a device that gives me full freedom to run the applications and display the content of my choice.

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A woman in New Zealand was reportedly awarded $17,000 for wrongful termination after she was fired for using bold, uppercase letters in an e-mail to co-workers. Vicki Walker used a variety of bold, red and all-capped fonts when she gave colleagues detailed instructions on how to properly fill out forms, MyFOXNY.com reported.

“To ensure your staff claim is processed and paid, please do follow the below checklist,” the e-mail stated, according to MyFOXNY.com. The company deemed the capital letters confrontational and fired her without warning in December of 2007, the Web site reported. Walker said she was forced into much debt over the past two years, including a second mortgage on her home.

She was awarded $17,000 for lost wages and unspecified harm in a wrongful termination lawsuit and plans to appeal to the Employment Relations Authority for additional compensation, MyFOXNY.com reported.

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thumb160x_7ed9d9f1fe22fc9bfbc6c0396f12f520(July 29, 2009) Buy a high-ticket electronics item like an HDTV today and you can be sure the salesperson will try to sell you an extended warranty that’s supposed to protect your considerable investment well beyond the length of time offered by the manufacturer.

Adding a relatively inexpensive extended warranty seems like a no-brainer so many consumers do, yet because the HD Guru frequently receives emails from buyers complaining about difficulties getting the terms of these warranties honored, we decided to investigate. (more…)

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The Ten CommandmentsI found this from cyberbrethren.com  Enjoy!

I continue to be impressed, both negatively and positively, by the many congregational web sites I visit. I just heard from a pastor friend of mine who reported that a family in his area found his congregation via his web  site. And he is in a fairly remote area. I can not underscore enough how important it is for your congregation to: (a) have a web site; (b) make it look very, very good; (c) keep it simple, clear and with good information right on the first page people see. You would be surprised how often a congregation’s web site makes it nearly impossible to find the most basic of information: where it is located; a contact e-mail; a phone number; clear directions; service times. I see web sites that bury this information on other pages, spread it out across several pages, or if they do put it on their home page, it is hard to read and see. It is much better to have a simple, clear, basic web site that looks nice, rather than one that is cluttered with poor quality design, images, colors and assorted eye-candy that adds nothing of value to the site. Keep in mind that your congregation’s home page should be designed with the non-member in mind, first and foremost. If you don’t want people to think your congregation is a private club, then don’t make the web site look that way. Here then, for your consideration, are

The Ten Commandments of Church Web Sites

I. Thou shalt communicate basic, necessary information first and foremost: directions to your church; service times; contact information.

II. Thou shalt not make it hard for the stranger in your midst to find this basic information.

III. Thou shalt be attentive to requests and inquiries thy web site receives: answer queries immediately, on the same day. Delay not when thou art contacted!

IV. Thou shalt design thy site with the non-member in mind, first and foremost.

V. Thou shalt place member-only information on separate pages, easily found for your members, but keep the sojourner and alien’s need in mind first on your home page.

VI. Thou shalt inform viewers what your church stands for and believes. Hide not thy public confession, lest you deceive visitors.

VII. Thou shalt not clutter thy church web site with ugly graphics, too many colors and 1990s era web design. If thou can not provide an excellent web site,  thou shalt keep it simple.

VIII. Thou shalt keep thy site neat and clean. Just because thou canst add widgets, graphics and flash graphics, does not mean that thou shouldst add them.

IX. Thou shalt not force visitors to listen to dreadful MIDI organ music; therefore, turn off all auto-play audio and video files. Force not music and videos on thy visitors.

X. Thou shalt not post embarrassing, poorly produced or prepared images of thy pastor and thy congregation’s staff. Better no pictures, than ugly ones.

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A New Vista?

Microsoft is trying its best to hurry up on its next operating software.  People just don’t like vista.  Here is an article I found.

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp said on Friday a version of its long awaited Windows 7 operating system will be made available from next week.

The version, known as a ‘release candidate’, or RC, essentially means the world’s largest software company is in the final stages of completing the operating system, the successor to the unpopular Windows Vista.

Microsoft said the RC will be available for download by program developers and IT professionals subscribing to the MSDN and TechNet networks on April 30 and available more broadly on May 5.

The company has still not said when the finished version would begin to be installed on PCs or available to buy in shops, but the company’s chief financial officer said on Thursday it could be as early as July.

That would allow Microsoft to capitalize on back-to-school sales and set it up for a strong holiday shopping season.

Microsoft’s operating systems, installed on the vast majority of the world’s PCs, are still the backbone of the company, providing more than half of its $4.4 billion profit last quarter.

Vista, launched to the public in 2007, was incompatible with some low-power machines and perceived by many to be too complicated. Rival Apple Inc ridiculed Microsoft’s problems with the system in a series of popular TV ads.

Windows 7, which has been getting good reviews in limited public tests over the last few months, is much cleaner looking and features an array of new touch-screen functions. Microsoft says it will also interact better with digital cameras and music players.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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