Apple’s Upgrade Downgrade

Originally published in The Clarion | September 26, 2012

Business is tough these days. I imagine most any area of business in our country can be looked at and, without very much analysis, one will find that things simply aren’t as good as they once were. While many (potentially most) areas of industry in America are doing everything they possibly can to “right the ship”, there are sectors of the technology industries that seemingly refuse to do anything but continue to play hard ball with their competition – resulting in nothing short of dissatisfied customers. I wrote an article a while back about copyrights in the software arena; since that article things have continued to get even more messy.

Just a few days ago, Apple Inc. released their new iPhone 5 along with a new Operating System for this and older devices including the iPhone 4 and iPad. This new OS is named iOS6 and I am sure it is nice, most everything that comes out of Apple Inc. is. One feature of iOS though has many consumers quite upset, and in my opinion rightfully so. What has happened is they have suddenly become victims of a continuing battle between Apple Inc. and Google.

Before the release of iOS6, users of Apple Inc.’s products were able to use (by default) mapping software on their devices that utilized mapping data from Google Maps. This software was included with each and every mobile device that Apple Inc. sold and, from what I have been able to gather, worked quite nicely. In iOS6 though, whether the consumer upgrades the Operating System on their devices or purchases a new iPhone 5, they are now only given access to a new mapping application – one that no longer uses Google’s mapping data. From most accounts, Apple Inc.’s mapping data is exponentially inferior to the data previously provided by Google. Several features of the mapping application are no longer available and according to some reports, the application seems more like a downgrade even though it is received with the Operating System upgrade. The old Southern saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” almost certainly applies here.

This is one really good example of the mess that the realm of technology has gotten itself in to. With countless court cases pitting one technological giant against another, there is no doubt in my mind that it is the consumers who are now suffering unnecessary consequences. Why should any consumer pay hundreds of dollars for a new device only to find that one of their most favorite applications now functions worse than it did in years past? I think it is past time for all technology providers to sit down around the table and work things out. There simply is no reason to continue playing such childish games at the expense of the consumer. If everyone at the table would come to an agreement, I am confident that in the end everyone will win.

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Smart Web Searching – Part 2

Originally published in The Clarion | September 19, 2012

Continuing our evaluation of smart Web searching, let’s recall the example I used last week. Loosely, a general rule in Web searching would be that you’re going to get out of the search as much as you put in to it. By that, I simply mean a weak search string will likely return a weak search result. Searching the term ‘football’ when you’re specifically looking for the scores from the previous nights’ games is essentially illogical. A much better search string for this scenario would be something like ‘college football scores’ or even more specifically ‘college football scores <date>’ where <date> is the actual date of the games that were played. This example holds true of most any information you might be searching for on the Web. Searching for ‘Ronald Reagan’ will return an untold number of results in no particular order, while searching for ‘Ronald Reagan birthplace’ will prioritize the search results so that you can quickly, often without even having to click the link that is given, get your answer.

There are a few other smart searching tips that I use frequently, a couple of which we’ll look at now. The first is one that I use quite often simply because my vocabulary isn’t what I’m sure my mother wishes it was. Again, this trick works in Google Chrome but may or may not work in other browsers. In the search box or your Address Bar, typing define:<search term> where <search term> is the word you want the definition for will return definitions for that term from many of the popular online dictionaries. An example of this would be to simply type define:discombobulation to instantly be presented with its definition. I also use the define: trick very often to ensure I have the proper spelling for a word. If the word after define: is misspelled, Google.com will alert me that I most likely meant something else and provide me with the correct spelling. Quite convenient to say the least.

The last feature of Google Chrome’s searching capabilities is one that may not be needed very often, but is handy when the time is appropriate. From Chrome’s Address Bar, you can actually search for a term or string of terms within a single specific website. Let’s say I want to learn more about Peter the Great but am only interested in articles that exist within the Wikipedia.org website. I can easily do this by typing the following into either Chrome’s Address Bar or the search box at Google.com – ‘Peter the Great site:wikipedia.org’. Once I submit this search request, each and every result I am given is a page located within Wikipedia.org’s website. I really hope you give this trick a try, it is a nice convenience to have when you really want to narrow down your search results.

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Smart Web Searching – Part 1

Originally published in The Clarion | September 12, 2012

I saved one of my most favorite features of the Google Chrome browser for this article as it leads into a new topic as well. This feature is one that, at least to my knowledge, doesn’t exist in other browsers or at least isn’t as user-friendly as in Chrome. By using keyboard shortcuts (which I do very frequently), searching the Web is a breeze in Chrome. While the Address Bar in all browsers is just that – a place in which to type the URL of the destination you wish to reach, Chrome’s Address Bar can also be used as a place to execute Web searches using Google.com. By using one of my favorite browser shortcuts – Control and the letter T, a new browser tab is opened with the cursor conveniently at my disposal in the Address Bar. From here I can easily type whatever search string I wish, hit the Enter key and just like magic, I am presented with search results from Google. I cannot tell you how convenient this feature is for someone like me who relies on the Web for both work and personal use essentially every day.

Odds are good that not many of you have ever really considered the art of searching the Web. I refer to it as an art simply because it is an action that some of us are simply better at than others. By learning tips and tricks and with some practice, perfecting the art of Web searching is not a difficult goal to achieve. Sure this may sound strange, but an example or two should help you better understand where I am coming from.

Since it is (finally) that time of the year once again, we’ll use football as our Web search topic of choice. While most people either love the sport or hate it, the simple truth is there is a plethora of information on the Web about all aspects of football. Let’s say you get out of bed on a Sunday morning and wish to find the late scores for Division 1 College Football from the night before. Using my nifty Chrome trick, or searching however you wish for that matter, odds are pretty decent that simply searching the term ‘football’ will not readily get you what you’re looking for. Sure this seems like common sense to many of us – but for some, it may be the logical thing to do. I personally believe that smart Web searching is as much, if not more, about the combination of terms that are searched for than the ability of the search engine itself. Afterall, as someone mentioned in an article that I read not too long ago, the Web is full of nothing more than articles/information/data/etc. written and presented by human beings. Next week we will evaluate smart searching even more.

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Browsing Basics – Part 4

Originally published in The Clarion | September 05, 2012

Wrapping up our series of articles on Web Browser tips and tricks, today I would like to expand on the Google Chrome browser and why I prefer to use it on a daily basis. While all of the popular broswers are sufficient in browsing the Web, Chrome has some attributes that I have found to exceed those of its counterparts. Overall, I choose to use Chrome for four primary reasons: performance, reliability, compatability and convenience. Again, other browsers excel in some or all of these areas as well, I have just found Chrome to be the best of the best.

In the area of performance, I did some side-by-side testing a few months back between Mozilla’s Firefox browser and Google Chrome. While both browsers were sufficient in getting the job done, Chrome was noticeably faster at loading pages and, for whatever reason, just felt better. I know that both browsers have released newer versions since I did my testing, it would probably be in order to do some testing again to see if this still holds true. Regardless, Firefox and Chrome both performed well but my vote in performance goes to Chrome.

When considering reliability, it will only be fair to say that no browser is perfect. Every browser I have used over the years at some point (some more often than others) decides to have issues. Whether it’s a poorly-designed website that causes the browser to lock up or crash, the fact that I simply have too many browser tabs open at a given time or something entirely unrelated to the browser that causes problems, browsers are simply software that are not – and never will be – 100% reliable. I try to make a point to download and install browser updates at least once a week which helps in minimizing failures. There is nothing more aggrevating than a browser locking up when you need it the most.

As for compatability and convenience, the two really go hand-in-hand. Chrome has a feature that allows you to “sign in” using your gMail account. By signing in on all of the devices on which you use Chrome, your bookmarks, preferences and browsing history are synched all of the time. I have found this feature extremely useful for someone like me who uses five different devices on an almost-daily basis. From my work desktop computer and laptop to my Android phone and tablet to my home desktop computer, having my browsers synched real-time, all of the time is extremely beneficial. Add the fact that Chrome is compatible with all common Operating Systems and you have what I consider to be the best choice in Web Browsers.

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