Thursday, August 31, 2006

Menu Bar To-Do List

FixMacs Seal
Sure, iCal has a to-do list as does Entourage, but I prefer something more prominent on my Mac desktop.

Enter Check Off.

Justin Williams, a recent graduate of Purdue University, has created a clean, handy to-do tool with a Mac-like interface. Check Off is readily accessible from the Mac Finder menu bar, though it conveniently disappears upon switching to another application.

Save your to-dos to your iPod. No sync with Palm devices.


Check out Check Off.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Radio Poltergeist, The State of Wi-Fi pt.3

I have a Wi-Fi network of my own. I wouldn't be without it, but I also know it doesn't live up to the marketing hype. Typing away in a lounge chair, I'm pleased it's cheap and so laptop convenient, yet the serenity of my visual space belies the bellicose battle of the unseen.

Most nights recently around 10:30 PM a mysterious external microwave signal in the same band as my Wi-Fi network (2.4 GHz) rumbles through the house. The cordless telephone (yes, 2.4 GHz) coughs up a partial ring as if the poltergeist were announcing its arrival. For the next hour or two I get wild fluctuations in the signal strength as measured by a Wi-Fi software utility installed on my iBook. These signal "dropouts" washout my iChat and Firefox connections throwing both into "now you're online, now you're not" modes. iChat makes a repeated whooshing sound as I am ushered in and out of cyberspace.

I don't yet have a clue regarding the source of the Wi-Fi "interference." One Wi-Fier's disconcerting interference is the next-door neighbor's gleeful iTunes download on their own wireless network.

Speaking of next door. The signal from a typical Wi-Fi access point has a useful range of about 50 feet inside a wood-frame house, but the signal can often be easily detected at about 150 feet. The walls of home or office contain the corporeal but the invisible microwave radio signals of Wi-Fi from your neighbor land right in your lap--and vice versa. The importance of enabling one of several network security options bears explicit treatment.

I've detected as many as eight separate Wi-Fi signals representing an equal number of networks in one building. No more than three networks can function unimpeded in the same radio signal space. Interference multiplies and data rates plummet even though your computer says the signal is strong.

Sooner or later, most users of Wi-Fi networks experience problems due to interference caused by neighboring Wi-Fi networks, cordless telephones, and microwave ovens.

"Cooking up a storm" has gained a new meaning.

Mark Mason

The State of Wi-Fi pt.2

...wired networks are also, invariably, much much slower than wired networks.

Wired is always better, except for mobility. Most homes have a home-office work space be it a separate room or just a desk in the corner. Those stationary computer workstations are best wired. In addition, wiring the second floor in multilevel dwellings adds bonuses.

Remodeling for Geeks

Wireless networks basically suck. Commonly, you and half a dozen neighbors each has a Wi-Fi network each interfering--butting heads-- with each other. I think of the airspace in your neighborhood as an invisible version of Wi-Fi mayhem. The illusion of "Home Sweet Private Home" is anything but that--especially so if you have an open Wi-Fi network.

If you have an opportunity to install a wired network, take a moment to consider the advantages.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The State of Wi-Fi

Everyone seems to have heard of Wi-Fi, or wireless computer networks. The differences between wired and wireless networks, and networking itself, may benefit from clarification.

Networking includes sharing a single Internet account, but it takes it's very name from the function of sharing files between computers and also for accessing shared printers and file servers. Yes, a home network--including Wi-Fi--permits file sharing directly between computers.

Computer networking is rapidly losing the association with office buildings. The 21st century home now considers wired networking infrastructure as commonplace, and necessary, as water, electricity, and telephone service.

Wi-Fi networking permits sharing the Internet, file sharing between computers, and accessing network printers in the manner reminiscent of a wired network, but wired is always better--always.

If you're remodeling your home, consider installing Ethernet network cabling inside the wall space with appropriate jacks and a network "room" or closet to be used for a printer, network router, and patch panel---I've gotten too deep in techie jargon--you're invited to discuss your home remodel and networking needs.

Brief comparison between Wi-Fi and Ethernet computer networks. The principal distinction is that Wi-Fi can be wildly unreliable and a security risk while offering convenience and lower cost.

Getting the News Out -- Mac Pro, and WinXP Boot Camp

Apple computers have switched from the PowerPC processor to Intel. What does this mean for users?

I still get calls from prospective clients stating that they are considering the purchase of a "new" G5 Power Mac. The G5 Power Mac is gone forever. The current line of high-end Apple computing workstations is now the Mac Pro.

This marks the last of the consumer transitions to the Intel processor on the Mac OS platform. The Mac Pros are said to be more than twice as fast as the G5 Power Macs and sports four internal drive bays. This is one sweet machine for the graphic artists and video producers.

Now that the entire line of Apple consumer computers--the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, and now the Mac Pro—all models now use Intel processors. Not everyone has heard that WinXP now runs natively on the Mac using Boot Camp. For those of you hesitating to buy a Mac because you have that one Windows application that you must have, now all Macs run WinXP--Natively. This means Macs are dual-booting. Not to be confused with clunky emulation sofware such as VirtualPC, the modern Macs can start up in either Mac OS X or WinXP.

A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch compares Mac versus PC laptop choices. Common processor diminishes Mac vs. PC debate

Such is the best of both worlds for those of you who want the ease and elegance of the Mac while retaining the ability to occasionally launch a Windows application.

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