Desktop replacements, clouds and Snapchat
Bob's Tech Talk
Q. My Windows 7 PC is showing its age and will need to be replaced soon. But I’m not sure which direction to go. Should I stick with Windows? Switch to a Mac? I think I might like a laptop. Any recommendations?
A. Upgrading your PC will require considerable effort. Even the move from Windows 7 to Windows 10 comes with a significant learning curve. A new computer will be easier to use and more secure. Laptops are extremely popular. Yet despite four decades of improvements, I think computers are still needlessly complex for most tasks.
Too much complexity is the Achilles’ heel of all computers, and the reason why I love the iPad. Especially the iPad Pro with an external keyboard. Nearly everyone in my family has either moved away from traditional computers or adopted an iPad as their first computing device. The iPad is extremely simple to use yet powerful enough to get real work done. The transition will not be effortless. The iPad will be unfamiliar compared to your existing computer, but that is true of any upgrade. Apple will help you get started, and the end result will be you can get the same work done with a lot less hassle.
One last suggestion: no matter which upgrade path you choose, do not wait until your present computer breaks before replacing it. It is much easier to preserve your sanity if you can make the transition gradually. Keep the present computer as a backup while you learn how to make the most from the new one. If you choose the iPad, you will not miss the hassles associated with a desktop computer.
Q. Every tech article I read seems to mention a “cloud” eventually. I see the word all the time, so often in different places that it makes no sense. Is it all just hype?
A. Not hype, but surely confusing. I counted over a dozen different uses of the word “cloud” on Apple’s website, describing aspects of unrelated topics like email, music, and word processing. Other tech companies are just as bad. The word “cloud” is everywhere.
It does not need to be this way. The word “cloud” simply means a place to store data other than on your local device. Anything with “cloud” attached could just as accurately use the word “Internet” or perhaps the word “server.”
The cloud is everywhere now because our devices keep getting more powerful, and they need a way to share information between one other. The sales pitch is that once your files are in the cloud, they are safe and accessible to your computer, smartphone or tablet.
Devices try to predict the files you need most often, and will keep a local copy to speed up access. If the local files are edited, the changes are automatically copied back to the cloud.
There are drawbacks but the advantages are compelling. Once you move them to the cloud, your most valuable files are protected in data centers, backed up routinely and (hopefully) always available. The “always available” part can be trouble, since that depends on an Internet connection.
I expect the confusion will eventually wane, but the cloud will be with us for years to come.
Q. What is Snapchat?
A. Snapchat is a message service that enables people to send video or text to one another via a smartphone app. The unique twist that Snapchat brings to the marketplace is that messages only exist for a short time, after which they are automatically deleted.
The self-destructing messages invite users to be more explicit. If you have tried the app yourself and found it confusing, you are not alone. Designed to appeal to expert smartphone users, the app’s controls are not obvious. Because Snapchat is more of a messaging platform than a social network, its value is very limited unless you have friends that already use the service.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at email@example.com.
Wander the web
Find a New Home for Your Tech
Gazelle.com is the site I use when it is time to say goodbye to a tech gadget. After you navigate a few screens describing the device, they will make an offer to purchase it. The offers I have reviewed are typically less than what a device is worth in a private sale on Craigslist, but Gazelle is exceptionally convenient. If the device still has a useful life, this is a much better option than the recycling bin. https://www.gazelle.com
Political Cartoon Treasure Trove
No matter how this election turns out, we are all going to need a place to turn for a laugh. And while the Internet has no shortage of snarky comments, there is something soothing about classic political cartoons. This page is one of the best ways I know to scroll through dozens of topical panels in a few minutes. If you are the forgetful type, subscribe to their newsletter. http://theweek.com/cartoons
Unique Gift Ideas
This shopping referral site specializes in unnecessary yet entertaining objects of desire. Think of it as Amazon with an attitude. The catalog boasts everything from magic wands to an R2D2 screwdriver. The site pulls items from Amazon, ThinkGeek and Etsy, plus sites I have never heard of before. When you need to find the right gift for the unusual people on your holiday shopping list. http://shutupandtakemymoney.com