Apple OS X Mountain Lion – First Impressions

You don’t have to look very hard on the Internet to find reviews of Mountain Lion, Apple’s new revision of the OS X operating system.

This review is slightly different. As a cynical, old school techie, I’m never particularly wowed by or interested in sparkly new features. All that really concerns me is exactly how upgrading my Mac’s operating system will affect my day-to-day computing life. So, that is the angle I’m coming from with this report.

On Early Adoption

I had a bad experience when I upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion. Lion slowed down my laptop and, initially, I cursed myself for being an early adopter. I should qualify this by saying that after installing a few OS revisions and upgrading my RAM to 8GB, I was once again perfectly happy with the performance of my MacBook Pro.

With this previous experience in mind, I’m not really sure why I jumped at Mountain Lion so soon after release, but a contributing factor was that the Mac forums gave me little to worry about. Many people reported performance improvements and nobody seemed to be complaining about anything of significance. So, after a good cleanup of my applications and files, I crossed my fingers and hit the download button.

Installation and Getting Started

The installation itself made me doubt my bold decision, especially as I went for an upgrade install rather than the “clean installation” that many people champion. During the installation process, the progress bar seemed to stall many times, and once the remaining time went down to “under a minute” it stayed there for over half and hour while I wore down my fingernails and cursed myself for being an early adopter once again.

My blood pressure didn’t go down after the first successful boot either. My Mac was horrifically slow at first, but this turned out to be due to the Spotlight search facility completing an initial index of my system. Once this was done, performance was back to normal.

Once I was using my Mac normally once again, I found little to initially impress me. In fact the only noticeable differences were slight graphical changes to the icon dock and the addition of the notifications bar, an import from iOS which collates notifications from various apps and puts them all in an easily accessible place.

OS X Mountain Lion Running on a MacBook Pro
OS X Mountain Lion Running on a MacBook Pro

I’m not massively sold on the idea of notifications as part of a computer operating system, but I have grown used to seeing the subject line of new emails popping up in the corner of my screen. Outlook on Windows used to do this and it is a useful timesaver. Beyond this, however, I have felt no need to click the notifications button. Still, it’s there, it doesn’t bother me and I have noticed no performance implication.


On the subject of performance, I can subjectively say that the overall “snappiness” of my system seems slightly improved compared to OS X Lion – things certainly haven’t got any worse. Boot time may be slightly faster, but it’s still not back to Snow Leopard standards. I accept that a clean install would probably change this, but have neither the time nor inclination to do this now.

New Features

In terms of additional features, there’s little that has jumped out at me to date, although I do, of course, know about the numerous subtle enhancements. I am aware that Safari has had a substantial upgrade, so I did switch all my browsing over to it for a day or two – but, as I type, I am back with Google Chrome as I adore its fast simplicity.

One feature that has truly wowed me it is the new Apple dictation facility. Having had horrible experiences with systems such as DragonDictate, I didn’t expect much from it. However, it has delivered almost 100% accuracy every time I’ve tried it. Now all I need to do is get used of forming my thoughts so that I can actually dictate into my computer without getting flustered. Once I do, I can see myself making plenty of use of this feature.

As I said at the start of this review, my move to Mountain Lion was less about trying out every tiny new feature and more about how the upgrade might improve my day-to-day experience on my Mac. With this criteria in mind, my upgrade experience is favourable if not particularly exciting.


While I’m aware of other features that I may eventually use, such as Twitter integration and AirPlay, for now I am simply satisfied that I did the right thing by upgrading. Apple seem to have the first iteration of Mountain Lion right, which makes me look forward to the gradual improvements across subsequent revisions.

While Mountain Lion may not be an essential upgrade, it’s certainly not one to be unduly wary of.

Windows 8 Boots Too Quickly to Be Interrupted

Boot Options Menu

We previously told you that Windows 8 could manage a cold boot in eight seconds flat, and that still holds true, but now there are reports that an SSD-equipped PC can manage it in under seven seconds. It’s not a huge difference in boot time, but it does create a minor and rather curious problem. Mainly, the user no longer has enough time to interrupt the boot menu.

Chris Clark, program manager at Microsoft’s User Experience team, explains in a Building Windows 8 blog post that a mere 200 millisecond window is all the time available to users if they want to make changes to a PC’s boot setup.

A new method

Since the Windows software and general computer hardware have become too fast for us puny humans, the days of reading “Press F2 to enter setup” are over and Microsoft recognizes the need to offer an alternate way of accessing the familiar boot menu. They found their top tappers could only manage about a 250ms frequency and catching that elusive 200ms opportunity was based a lot on chance. In other words, the added speed became the opposite of user friendly.

In response, the team came up with three solutions that work together to solve the issue. Clark notes in his post that “no one should need to learn how Windows is built” and the team wanted the new boot options to “just work”. A refreshing choice of words as Windows is notorious for requiring complicated work arounds for simple problems depending on hardware, software version, and general computer skills of the user. But keeping with their new, simplified design aesthetic Microsoft has decided to make a single menu for every boot option.

How it works

Microsoft’s solution is a three-pronged approach:

  1. The various boot settings that have previously been scattered from one end of Windows to the other will now be available in a single boot options group
  2. The menu will automatically appear whenever Windows is prevented from booting up correctly
  3. Microsoft is providing the user with plenty of different ways to bring up the new menu at will.

Basically, although you will no longer be able to access the boot menu from the start up screen, you’ll still be able to check it out once your PC has finished booting up. Specifically, you can bring up the menu through Advanced startup on the General tab of your PC’s settings. From there, you can choose to Restart now and choose a new start up volume during a reboot.

There’s an even quicker method built-in, simply holding down the Shift key while click Restart in your computer’s shutdown menu will cause Windows 8 to reboot into the boot menu as well.

One important note is that these changes are only applicable to newer PCs with UEFI BIOS. This exclusion, according to Chris Clark, can be chalked up to the speed restricitions of older hardware, meaning they will spend enough time booting up for a user to interrupt with the F8 or F2 keys.

Windows 8 ‘Release Preview’ Brings New Apps and Updates the Old Ones

As we assumed when various apps in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview were marked with an “App Preview” tag, the core Metro apps have been updated in the Windows 8 Release Preview. The updated applications feature some improvements to the user interface (there were some apps that really needed it), a unified app settings bar, and even some all-new applications.

The preview pages of some revised apps have been floating around online via the Windows Store, but this is the first time we are seeing the new apps in action. Though it isn’t surprising that the core apps have been updated, we are still extremely excited to see the makeover results. Some of the apps were just plain difficult to use and lacked cohesion, ease-of-use, or basic functions.

To kick things off, we begin by applauding the unified look of the app bar that drops down from the top of the screen. The options may be app-specific, but it’s nice to see a cohesive design structure being employed.

Updated Apps


The new Photos app (pictured above) features a new smart screen complete with a full-size background photo chosen from your own collection, and smaller thumbnails pulled from your local library, SkyDrive, Facebook, and Flickr are displayed overtop. It’s very easy on the eyes and closely resembles the Windows Phone version.


In the Consumer Preview, the Calendar app was missing a simple search function. Maybe not a problem for the average user with two or three appointments in a week, but incredibly troublesome for the power user with a growing number of time commitments. Thankfully that search function has been implemented in the latest release and answered our dearest prayers.


The most exciting change in the Music app is the integration of Zune Pass, which means all of your cloud-based music is finally accessible via the Windows 8 desktop.


When we first started working with Windows 8, the Mail app haunted our nightmares. It was unreliable and clumsy at best, and though the new version still lacks threaded conversations (really!?), it’s been optimized and crashes a lot less often. The user experience has become actually, well, usable now.

Inboxes are listed on the left-hand pane, doing away with the hellish way of switching inboxes in the App Preview, which involved pressing the back button a whole lot of times. You can also pin specific accounts to your start screen in order to choose whether to check your personal or work email before launching the app. It’s still not as feature-packed as say Gmail or Hotmail, but we must admit that it’s gorgeous.

Web Browsing

The most interesting and innovative change to IE this time around comes in the form of “Flip ahead”, a feature that uses crowd-sourcing to predict which web page a user will click on next. So instead of needing to click on the suggested page, you can simply swipe or click the on-screen forward button to navigate there. At the moment it works best for flipping to the second page of an article, but hopefully with time the algorithm will prove more useful. “Flip ahead” will be turned off by default, so you’ll have to enable it manually.

Sharing options are built-in now, which isn’t too exciting, but worth noting. Flash has been enabled as well, which was inevitable. But what rocks about Metro IE’s implementation is that it’s plug-in free by default so Flash works without any additional setup.

Weather and Maps

Nothing much has changed here. The Weather app is still beautiful and information-packed. We thought Maps lost it’s dedicated search function, but it was only moved into the Charms bar.

Lock Screen

The lock-screen saw a mini-refresh as well. You can now adjust the volume and pause or skip tracks without unlocking your device, which we love.

Brand New Apps

Most of the new apps are Bing-centric, which makes sense for Microsoft’s clear dedication to all things Bing. The moniker of Bing seems a bit redundant since the apps are obviously powered by the search engine, but you can’t blame a company for tooting its own horn. Besides, each app is gorgeous, works great, and beats the pants off the competition.

Bing News

The Bing News app opens up to the top story of the moment and as you scroll right, you’ll find more top headlines pulled from several different categories. The app bar serves as a way to drill down into specific sources or trends. Of course, you can pin any category or custom topic to your start page for quick access to personalized news feeds.

Bing Travel

Basically a Metro version of the site’s trip planning feature, Bing Travel lets you do research and flight / hotel booking. If you don’t already have a destination in mind, the home page serves to inspire you by displaying a collection of pictures and travel articles from featured destinations. Once you choose a place to visit, the app provides you with plenty of helpful details ranging from maps to weather stats and local prices.

Bing Sports

As you may have guessed, Bing Sports helps you keep track of your favorite sports teams and general news stories in the realm of athletics. A top story is displayed on the home page by default and as you swipe to the right you’ll be greeted by more articles, game schedules, and a place just for you called “Favorite teams.” This section of the app is pretty self-explanatory, type in a team name and you’ll receive personalized information relevant to that team like standings, rosters, player stats, etc. And from the app bar up top, you can filter news stories by sport if you could care less about specific teams.


What do you think? Will Windows 8 be the next big thing or the next big flop? Sound off below!

If you’d like a more in-depth look at the Release Preview, a slideshow of all the apps (new & improved) has been provided for your viewing pleasure.

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Windows 8 Can Do A Cold Boot In 8 Seconds Flat

We said what everyone was thinking. A coat of paint on a sub-par system does not a successful operating system make. Okay, my colleague said it better than that, but the message is the same. Regardless, we’d still like to give credit where it’s due and highlight something that Microsoft has done really, really well so far: Start-up time.

Praise be to whoever made this miracle happen, because Windows no longer takes an eternity to load. Now it takes 8 seconds. Yes. I’ll repeat that. 8 seconds. There’s proof in the video below. From fully powered-off to fully powered-on in just under 8 seconds. Even Apple can’t touch that.

Windows 8 has changed the way your computer shuts down. In Windows 7, everything (including the services and devices in the kernel session) are completely turned off. But in 8, the kernel session is put into hibernation mode, rather than being shut down. This allows Windows to avoid restoring the kernel session at every start-up. It’s a change that has improved boot times of PCs by 30-70%.


And that is not all folks. The boot process is also going to look better, a detail that may not seem that important until you boot up a MacBook next to a current version of Windows. With Apple, you see a nice spinning wheel with an Apple logo above it, but with the PC, well you’re going to get a mess. Scary scrolling text, jarring screen changes, and finally a couple of graphic screens.

But that’s all changed. Windows 8 will now show the logo of the company that made your computer and follow that up with a graphic windows bootloader. Clean and simple. Two adjectives that Windows have been lacking for a large amount of years. You may have noticed the improved boot screens in the video as well.

But what if you need to do something else during boot up? Like booting into a different operating system? They’ve got a simple user interface for that. They even beautified the screen that allows you to choose which attached media to boot from. Using Windows 7 is starting to look a lot like living in the dark ages. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the ugly, ugly interface that makes up the command prompt. When will this be fixed? Nobody knows. Anyway, I know you don’t believe me, but there is proof in this video:


Windows 8: Better Built From Scratch?

Windows 8 is rapidly taking shape, and on the surface it looks fantastic. On the surface. Only on the surface. Under the hood things are a little messier, because at its heart Windows 8 is still Windows, the same Windows that we’ve known, and loved and hated in equal measure, since it debuted under Bill Gates leadership in 1985.

The question that really has to be asked is whether Microsoft would have been better building Windows 8 from scratch? Would starting again and building from the ground up have been a better strategy than effectively plugging the holes?

First, let’s look at Windows 8 in more detail, and thanks to Microsoft’s insatiable need to share we know a lot about Windows 8 already, even though it’s at least a year away from being unleashed on the public. Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Division at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, is keeping us in the loop with the Building Windows 8 blog.

Windows 8 is a two-headed beast. Its user interface (called Metro) will be the default for all users regardless of their machine of choice, is big, bold, and colorful. Under the hood, doing all the hard work, is Windows 7 with bells on. There have been a few small changes made here and there, with ribbons being integrated left, right, and center, but it’s still the same old Windows.

The trouble is that the shiny new UI is gaining all the attention and taking all the plaudits. Rightly so, I guess, because it is regarded as a triumph, both visually and in terms of usability. But it was conceived with tablets in mind, being finger-friendly and reminiscent of Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. At this point in time most people don’t own tablets, and those that do own Apple iPads. So it’s a gamble.

The Windows desktop PC users know all too well exists on Windows 8 as an app, given equal billing as Angry Birds and Facebook. But it’s still there, in the background, with all its inherent security flaws and decades-old issues. Which seems a little bizarre. It’s as though Microsoft wants to forge its way into the future, competing with Apple and Google as it does so, but feels the need to hold on to the past, its past, a past that many would say needs to be left well behind if the company is to remain as the giant it currently is.

I can’t help feeling that Microsoft is trying to please all of the people all of the time, which is, as we know, impossible. There is a very real risk that Windows 8 will sit between the two camps – the classic and the modern – and please nobody. It may have been a more worthy strategy for Microsoft to face the future head on and build Windows 8 completely from scratch. Sure, it may have meant an extra year or two’s wait, but Windows 7 is serving most people’s needs adequately at this stage. And with firms upgrading from XP and Vista en masse, a delay wouldn’t have been too detrimental to Microsoft’s revenues.

Perhaps a better question to ask would be whether Microsoft should build Windows 9, or whatever its next, next operating system is called. Because that has to deliver on all fronts in the way Windows 7 managed to. It is notoriously difficult trying to cater to everyone at the same time, and that could eventually prove to be Microsoft’s downfall.

Image Credit: magn3tik

Apple Updates MacBook Air and Mac Mini; OS X Lion Released

Today is a big day for Apple. They’ve released updated versions of their MacBook Air and the Mac Mini along with finally unleashing the Mac OS X Lion into the Mac App Store.

Their new MacBook Airs are now equipped with newer Sandy Bridge chips, Thunderbolt ports, and backlit keyboards. The 11-inch model includes a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, 64GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of RAM, and starts at $999. The slightly larger 13-incher starts at $1,299 and includes a 1.7GHz Core i5 chip, 128GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. Both variations have Intel HD 3000 graphics on board, as well as FaceTime webcams, two USB ports (SD slot on 13-incher), and of course the speedy Thunderbolt ports.

The Mac Mini line has received a similar internal upgrade with the addition of Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt. The base model starts at $599 and includes a 2.3GHz Core i5 CPU, AMD Radeon HD graphics, 2GB of RAM, 500GB of hard-drive storage, and Turbo Boost 2.0, which allows you to easily overclock to 3.4GHz whenever you’re using resource-intensive programs. Apple also released a server version, which will cost you $999 and includes a Core i7 processor and has Mac OS X Lion Server on board.

Mac OS 10.7 Lion is now available in the Mac App Store and is ready to be downloaded and installed onto your Snow Leopard-equipped machine for only $29.99. Upgrading to Lion requires that you have an Intel Mac with a Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor, and at least 2GB RAM and 4GB of hard drive space. You also need to have Mac OS 10.6.8 Snow Leopard installed before you can upgrade to Lion.

In other less-known Apple news, the company also rolled out an updated version of their 27-inch display that comes packing with Thunderbolt, built-in 2.1 speakers, and an HD FaceTime webcam. There’s also a FireWire 800 port, Ethernet, three USB ports, MagSafe charging for your MacBook, and a single DisplayPort that’s capable of daisy-chaining six devices. Oh, and did we mention that the display rocks an awesome 2560 x 1440 resolution?

If you have a keen eye, you might have also noticed while surfing the online Apple Store that the infamous white MacBook is now kaput. It looks like no more plastic for Apple.

How to Partition Your Hard Drive for Ubuntu and Windows

Let’s say that, hypothetically, someone read a Techerator article on the new features of Ubuntu 10.1 and decided that they wanted to try it out. After messing around with the Live CD, they opted to do the Ubuntu install inside Windows (Wubi) so that they could still play around with both operating systems without messing up their hard drive.

Now let us assume, hypothetically, that this person’s Windows OS decided to stop working altogether (not because of Wubi, but just because of the laws of computer nature), and now they want to throw caution into the wind and partition the heck out of their hard drive to run both Windows and Ubuntu at the same time.

What’s the best method? Programs like Partition Magic and EASEUS Partition Master do the job just fine and dandy, but is there an easier way? All hypothetical notions aside, let’s explore a few quick alternatives to hard drive partitioning for dual booting Windows and Ubuntu.

Important Note: Modifying your operating system partitions is inherently dangerous and can result in data loss if something goes wrong. Before following any steps in this guide, make sure you feel comfortable with the procedures detailed below, and above all – make a backup!

Modifying A Windows Volume for Free Space

If you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista (sorry XP users), Windows has an option for you under Disk Management that allows for the disk space of the hard drives to be shrunk. To do this, go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Disk Management. Then just right click on the partition in question and select “Shrink Volume…” to free up disk space.

Right Click the Drive to Start Shrinking

Windows will let you know how much space can be trimmed from the partition (so that no data is chopped during the shrink process). After shrinking the Windows volume, one can then boot up the Ubuntu Live CD and format the free space for an Ubuntu install.

The GParted Method

If your situation is exactly like the hypothetical one mentioned in the beginning of this article, it would be in your best interest to look into a program called GParted that is located on the Ubuntu Live CD. Once the CD is running on your machine (using the Trial Version option), look for Gparted under System -> Administration.

Ubuntu's Partition Solution

This is what the program looks like when loaded up. As one can see, this hard drive has a few partitions on it already, with the main one being Windows (sda5). GParted allows the user to create, delete, and re-format any partition on their hard drive with just a few simple clicks, at their own risk of course.

Dual Booting with GParted

Here’s how our hypothetical person would go about fixing his computer for a dual boot situation. First things first: clearing the 80 GB abomination containing the corrupt and villainous Windows partition.

Heck yes I want to Apply the Pending Operations!

Next, we take that cleared 80 GB and split it into two parts, one for Ubuntu and one for Windows, noting that we can make them any size we want out of the free space.

Note that one of the partitions is in NTFS format (for Windows), and the other is in ext4 format (for Ubuntu). After allowing GParted to finish its splitting task, the hard drive in question looks parted this:

And there you have it: two partitions fully spaced and formatted for a dual boot situation. As always with extensive computer tweaking, be mindful of what you are doing and be sure to be fully understand the risks involved.

This method of creating two different partitions for dual booting is just one way to do it. In actuality, there are numerous ways to format the drive to allow for dual booting with Ubuntu. This website does a great job of giving all the options for a partitioned Ubuntu hard drive. A nice alternative from this site is to try creating small partitions for the base operating system data, and then creating a “Swap” partition to share all your personal data and media between Windows and Ubuntu. Ultimately, whichever method you choose, be mindful of the risks involved with partitioning and formatting and be sure to back up your data.

Final Note: OS Installation

Now that the hard drive is in a condition to allow installing, let me give one more tip for a clean dual boot situation. The main bootloader for Ubuntu 10.1 is called Grub2, and presents itself every time you boot up your computer. If you want to continue having Grub2 manage your operating systems in a dual boot scenario install Windows first on the machine, then Ubuntu. Windows also has a bootloader, and it does not like to show you that there is another OS on the computer. It is a jealous type.

If you make the mistake of installing Ubuntu first then Windows, there are some sites you can go to (here and most importantly here) to see how you can restore the Grub2 using the Ubuntu Live CD and a terminal.

So from one hypothetical computer user to another, join the next generation of users. Become a dual booter today.

Image courtesy: DeclanTM

Progress Bars use Optical Illusions to Appear Faster

I’d rather not think about how many hours I’ve spent staring at progress bars in my life. They’re a lot faster than the used to be because of better processors and internet connections, but we still have to wait patiently while transferring large files, downloading video games on Steam, or streaming videos online.

Have you ever wondered why modern progress bars have become so much more animated than they were in the “old days”? Part of it might be that user interfaces are more aesthetically pleasing than they used to be, but the biggest reason is because they want to deceive you.

That’s right, your harmless little progress bar is lying to you.

Studies have shown that the animations used in progress bars can make them seem to go up to 11% faster, as shown in the New Scientist video below. Using tricks like ripples and pulses of light are a simple way to make you feel like things are happening quicker than they really are.

The next time you’re waiting for your computer to transfer a large file to your USB flash drive, I expect you to point an accusing finger and yell “LIES!”.

Image courtesy: D’Arcy Norman

Ubuntu Updated to 10.10; Can Now Solve the Ultimate Question to Life, The Universe, and Everything

As an exclusive Windows user (with two computers running Windows 7, one running XP, and a Vista boot disk just in case), I find myself in a comfort zone.  Windows has been the bread of my computing life; starting all the way back to good ol’ Windows 95.  But just because I feel safe in the arms of Microsoft, that doesn’t mean I am naïve.

To be frank, the Windows XP installation on my oldest machine has become a burden and a resource hog.  Nothing, even Windows Explorer, is fast anymore.  And this is even after re-installing the darned OS a few times (viruses may or may not have been involved in some of them).  The system just makes me want to shout expletives.

Who would like to stare at this for 20 minutes every morning?

So at 10pm on October 17th of 2010, I switched that machine to Ubuntu.  I had previously dabbled with 8.04 (Hardy Heron) by trying it out on a Live CD, but that was when Microsoft’s clutches still had a considerable hold on me.  Now that 10.10, also known as Maverick Meerkat, has been released, I fully expect myself to give Ubuntu the college try and hopefully show Windows XP the door.

So let’s take a tour of Ubuntu, shall we?


First off, downloading the ISO and installing Ubuntu was easier than brushing your teeth.  And look at all these options!  Ubuntu 10.10 lets you partition, un-partition, boot from the CD, and run right alongside Windows without any major disruptions in booting or partitioning (it’s known as Wubi, and it comes standard).  Furthermore, if you are already running Ubuntu you can just update using the Update Manager.

Updated Software Center

Hey look, they had exactly what I was looking for.

Since Ubuntu is the ultimate freeware OS, it is obvious that having a good Software Center is essential.  Ubuntu 10.10 creates a very user friendly option for searching and installing new applications, and has added “Featured” and “What’s New” sections on the main page to keep yourself with the “in” crowd.  For the most part, a simple search in this repository can find equivalent programs to do tasks and jobs that old software did in Windows or Mac.  And like the Android market, this Center keeps on growing and growing and growing…


Its a screenshot of Shotwell organizing screenshots of Shotwell. Whoa.

It's called art. Deal with it.

When it comes to images in Ubuntu 10.10, F-Spot is out and Shotwell is in.  Now I don’t necessarily know why Ubuntu made the switch for it’s default image program, but I can say that both have the same bells and whistles.  Both applications allow for importing and exporting images, editing images with tools like red-eye detection, cropping,  and color enhancements, and uploading the images to media outlets like Flickr and Facebook.  Also, if one is upgrading from F-Spot to Shotwell, there is an import button to ease one’s transitioning woes.  But ultimately if Shotwell doesn’t fit one’s fancy, it can always be uninstalled and replaced by F-Spot via the Software Center.

Quick Access to Email, Chat, Etc.

Information overload.

Were these features always in Ubuntu?  Oh, well they look new to me.  Right off the bat, Ubuntu makes it a cinch to chat and update yourself in real time.  The three main items Ubuntu brings to the table are Empathy for messaging, Gwibber for social updating, and Evolution for email.  Typing in all those account passwords into these programs might take a while, but it’s definitely worth it.  Lord knows we all like simplicity when it comes to getting information and sharing it, and these programs do the trick.

Ubuntu One

Welcome to the cloud.

Ubuntu One is all about cloud  computing.  Like Dropbox, Ubuntu One grabs your attention by giving you 2GB of free space in the cloud to sync, back-up, and stream your files anywhere you want.  But unlike Dropbox, Ubuntu One also syncs any contacts, bookmarks, and notes from Ubuntu that enter its domain.  And if one is feeling even more ambitious with their One account, they can get their Android or Apple mobile phone (with a monthly subscription fee) to stream music straight from their Rythmbox library.

Netbook Edition

Hey look, its Ubuntu...but SMALLER

So far so good, right?  Well Ubuntu took things a step further with 10.10.  Not only is there a desktop version and a server version, but now a netbook version as well.  Well okay, so the Netbook Edition is not a completely new thing for Ubuntu (See Ubuntu 8.04 and 9.04, filed under “Remix”), but this new netbook OS is considered new in most aspects.  Called Ubuntu Unity, the system boasts a clean user interface with quick access to preferred and commonly used applications.  Besides that, it runs exactly like Ubuntu 10.10 on the desktop.  Simple social networking, fast performance, and access to all the software you want.  What more could one ask for?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.  Some new Ubuntu things, some old Ubuntu things, and a rookie Ubuntu user questions his place in the realm of Microsoft.  It is pretty clear that the open source giant Linux is getting things right on this one.  Fast access, free and comparable software, and simple interfacing makes this a solid replacement to XP, or any other OS for that matter.

Now it may not completely break me from my Microsoft habit, but it surely makes me reconsider.  I mean, let’s be honest here.  If Ubuntu keeps raising the bar like this, we may discover the mysteries of the universe sooner than expected.

Gather Information About Your Client’s PC with Support Details

Building websites that function properly across multiple browsers can be a time consuming process.  Most of that time is put into backwards compatibility to support outdated web browsers – I’m looking at you, IE6.

If a client or end-user of your website is experiencing a problem, it can be a difficult task to ask all of the questions necessary to pinpoint the cause of the problem.

Support Details is a simple and easy-to-use web application that will gather all of the necessary information about your client’s personal computer.  To use Support Details, you can simply send your client to

Your client will be presented with information about their PC as shown below.

Have the user fill-out the information bar at the top of the page with their name, email address, and your email address and click Send Details.  They also have the option to export their PC’s information as a CSV or PDF file.

Support Details lets you create custom URLs to send to your clients with the correct contact information already entered, so all they have to do is click Send Details.

Let us know what you think about Support Details by commenting below!

Image credit: rcourtie