Calling From The Future

Since my childhood I’ve been a fan of Star Trek. I remember as far back as 1978 watching reruns of The Original Series with my Dad. I was always fascinated with the technology from that show, and other sci-fi TV shows and movies, of being able to talk to someone via a video call. Well, whether you use it or not, the technology is here, the future is here, and I’m loving it.

For about five years now I’ve been using Skype for PC-to-PC calls with family and friends however I remember being able to make video calls as far back as 1999 with NetMeeting on Windows 98. I still use Skype for video calls frequently and sometimes switch between that service and Google’s Video Chat via Gmail. Video chat has been available for a few years now on computers but technology has advanced so much that we now have the capability to have video calls on our mobile phone. That just blows my mind. I’m mean, come on, it’s not science fiction today it’s science fact and that is the coolest thing to me being a fan of science fiction. The iPhone 4 came out last year with a front-facing camera and the ability to make video calls via Facetime. In recent months you also have the option to purchase an Android phone (I think it’s just the Nexus S for now) with a front-facing camera to video chat via Gtalk with more Android phones coming out with the same ability in the coming months.

Currently, I do not own a phone with a front-facing camera (still hauling around the Motorola Droid 1) but I can tell you that my next purchase will be an Android phone with a front-facing camera that will have the ability to video chat. Because I encourage my friends and family to call me on Skype and Gtalk on the computer today I also would like to have that option on my mobile phone too. It’s so Star Trek, man.

So, I’m wondering: If you were to buy a phone with a front-facing camera today, or in the future, would you use the video chat function? I would love to see your vote and read your comments below.

[poll id=”1″]

An Explanation About Things

So, as you have probably noticed, I have been posting a few things about Linux Mint lately here on my blog. I probably should have informed you through this blog, if you are a frequent reader, that I was switching to Linux Mint full time on my main desktop. This happened about three months ago. As most of you know by reading this blog I am a tech enthusiast (geek). I love everything about technology and am not biased to any particular operating system as they are all generally the same, they all have their own weaknesses and strengths.

I’ve used Windows most of my tech life since version 3.11. I finally stepped out of my shell and tried Linux about 9 years ago. I first started using Redhat, before it became Fedora, and even setup a Redhat server back in 2004 running a web server out of my house to host a forum for me and some buddies of mine. Other than that Linux server, I’ve never been a full time Linux user. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried quite a few flavors – Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva, FreeBSD, TurboLinux, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and many more – but have never completely used Linux for my day-to-day use.

In 2006 when Apple changed the architecture to Intel processors, I decided to try Mac OS X by buying a Mac Mini and immediately fell in love. Finding that I was using the Mini more and more and needing more power, I sold the Mini six months later and purchased a black MacBook. I still use that MacBook to this day and it has been involved in my day-to-day computer operations.

Even though I have that MacBook, I still use my Windows desktop (Dell XPS 410) for other day-to-day computer operations as well as PC gaming. Well, three months ago I came to the conclusion that I really need to learn Linux, to be more of a intermediate to advance user rather than a amateur user as I have always been these past 9 years. I figured that the only way to really get into the core of the operating system and to learn everything about it was to use it full time on my desktop. That led to creating a dual boot of Windows 7 and Linux Mint 10; the booting of Windows 7 for PC gaming on the occasion I want to game and the booting of Linux Mint to use in my day-to-day computer operations. I chose Linux Mint because I fell in love with it about two years ago after being a Ubuntu fan. There were things that Ubuntu did with the color scheme and Gnome that I just grew tired after awhile which led me to Linux Mint. Now Ubuntu incorporates the Unity interface and I am glad I switched to Linux Mint before that came along.

For those that don’t know me personally, along with being a tech enthusiast, I also work in the tech industry as a Systems Administrator in a Windows environment. I first received my A+ and Microsoft certification 10 years ago and have been working in IT for that same period of time. I know Windows and I know it pretty well. However, working in the IT field I know it is also advantageous to be more diverse in all aspects of technology, that is why I wanted to experiment with Linux those many years ago. But because of needing to stay up-to-date with Windows for my field it has been difficult to dive right into Linux. I have contemplated getting a Linux certification but never have had the money to achieve that schooling. So, that is why I came to the decision of moving to Linux on my main desktop, so that I can use it and learn it. I learn better by getting my hands dirty.

So, from time to time you will continue to see me post newly discovered tweaks and tips in Linux, particularly Linux Mint.

Xbox Live Requires Higher MTU

I just found out from Xbox Live support that Xbox Live now requires an MTU of 1364 or higher. Unfortunately, my Apple Airport Extreme has no way of changing that setting. This is total crap. Now I literally have to choose between Apple or Microsoft; doing away with my Airport Extreme router or canceling my Xbox Live. And to be honest with you, I believe Microsoft will be winning this battle.

Update – 10/07/2010 6:50pm: I just got off the phone with Apple support to find out if they could tell me the default MTU value on the Airport Extreme since you can’t change it. After waiting on hold for a few minutes for the support technician to research the information they stated the default value is 1492. Stupid Microsoft.

Update – 10/07/2010 7:00pm: I just fixed it myself. Believe it or not, it was a DNS issue. I use OpenDNS on my home network. I have never, EVER had an issue with OpenDNS. I simply went into my Xbox NIC and change the DNS to my ISP’s DNS IP instead of using my router DNS, since it has the OpenDNS IPs, and I was able to log into Xbox Live. Crazy. Although, now that I think of it, I probably could have just put an Allow rule in the OpenDNS settings and it would have fixed it too. Stupid OpenDNS

Blogging with Windows Live Writer

Now I am currently typing from within Windows Live Writer. Already I see that I prefer this interface to Office 2007. Windows Live Writer (WLW) seems to be a much thinner client with all the tools necessary to compose my blog and publish it here to my WordPress site. The insertion of links and images is super simple.


The image above was taken from within Parallels which runs WIndows XP on my Mac. In it you can see what the interface of WLW looks like. All that I simply did, after completing a screenshot, was drag-and-drop the image into WLW and define the actions of the image. That simple. Although, since it is in beta, I did discover a bug during an attempted operation of clicking the Insert Picture button. When I selected the icon to insert that picture, I got an error message and was not allowed to complete the operation. Luckily the drag-and-drop feature worked.

I would have to say that if you are a Windows users and blog, this might be the tool for you. The best thing about it is that it is free compared to the $150 plus price tag that is placed on the Office 2007 product.

Blogging with Office 2007

Since I started blogging, I have been searching for a nice client based application that will allow me to write a blog without having to log into my blog web site and type everything in the WordPress interface. Since I use a Mac at home, I have found a couple of utilities that work really well. But, there are situations that I have to use Windows, mainly when I am at work or traveling for work. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be blogging from work but I do get an hour lunch, thank you very much.

Well, I have found two utilities from Microsoft that will allow you to compose your blog and then submit it to your blog site, I am actually using one now, Office 2007. This version of Office 2007 is actually a 60 day trial version that everyone can download from Microsoft’s site. I would actually encourage you to download and try it out on your test machine (If you have one); it’s a new experience, if you are familiar will previous versions of Office.

The other utility is called Windows Live Writer. It’s still in beta so if you decide to download to try it, you may run into some bugs while using it. My next blog will be tested with that utility.

For now, I want to give you a brief rundown of Office 2007’s blog option. When you open Office, you can select New in which you are then given an option for a New Blank Document or a New Blog Post. There are other options, of course, but to try out this function I selected the latter. Immediately a new blank page opens that looks like a regular Word document and then a separate pop-up window that allows you to enter your blog site information: blogging provider (Windows Live Spaces, Blogger, Typepad, WordPress and others), your site URL, and login credentials. After that it was all pretty simple, like composing a standard Word document. When I was done, I selected Publish and Office 2007 did the rest.

I was impressed.

Bill Gate’s comments on Apple

This is a pretty good article:

Gates speaks up over Apple commercials

I like what is written about four paragraphs down, it’s very true:

“There is little truth to the claims made by the most zealous of Mac users, and the educated Mac user often never attacks Windows, or PCs in general, because it isn’t about a system, it is personal choice, and what works best for them.”

Having used most operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac – it is truly about personal choice. The most fascinating things that won me over with Mac are the applications that come with it for free, the iLife suite for example (iMovie, GarageBand, iPhoto & iDVD), and also the fact that it’s truly not required that I purchase and run a anti-virus program (in Windows, I am constantly annoyed that I have to install anti-virus because I know it’s required and yet I also know that it often bogs down the system performance). There really isn’t anything wrong with Windows, it doesn’t crash on me all the time, like most anti-Windows people state, and hasn’t since Windows 98. And, even if my Windows 2000 or Windows XP gave me a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), it’s not because of the operating system, it’s because of the crappy drivers that were written for Windows by the hardware manufacturer. But, it is true about the security of Windows, it is not as secure as Linux or Mac. Windows has many security flaws and vulnerabilities that are discovered almost everyday, especially in Internet Explorer (use Firefox people, it truly is for your own good), and is extremely prone to virus attacks. But, again, it’s not entirely Window’s fault, the world is out to get Microsoft. Mac, and even sometimes Linux, has security flaws that are discovered in their operating system too. I check for OS X updates almost once a week and find that there are security updates at least twice a month, not as many as Windows but they’re still there. For the most part, viruses are not written for OS X, only Windows, because, as mentioned, the world is out to get Microsoft.

I can tell you now that OS X still has problems and mistakes, it’s not a completely perfect operating system. Just yesterday I was editing a video in iMovie and the damn thing kept crashing on me. I’ve deducted the problem as being a corrupt project and I will have to delete it to start over again, which sucks because it’s a huge project with many edits and movie clips.

But, I will say, it is true what is stated about the differences between Mac and Windows. I still believe Windows is perfect for the business and Mac is perfect for the home user. Take that as you will as a personal and professional opinion. Also, even though Macs are a little more expensive than most manufactured PCs (which is changing fast due to the switch to Intel processors in Macs), I have found so many more applications that are free (most open source) that have been fantastic substitutes for software I would normally have to buy for Windows.

And, one final note, OS X is a faster, smoother operating system than Windows XP. I’m currently running only 512MB of RAM in my MacBook and it still runs and opens common applications rather fast. Whereas I have seen running 512MB in Windows XP is a mistake and most common applications do not open and run as fast. Although, I still plan to bump my MacBook up to 2GB as the extra memory will help me when editing videos in iMovie.

So, to end on what I started saying at the beginning of this post, there is no perfect operating system. In my personal, and professional, opinion, Mac is not better than Windows, and Windows is not better than Mac, and Linux is not better than Mac, and Windows is not better than Linux.

Windows Vista, whoopee

So, Windows Vista is out and everyone is going crazy over it. I honestly don’t remember there being such a huge deal over Windows XP when it came out. I’ve seen blogs, tech news site and even television news segments regarding the release. Even Bill Gates himself is on tour to promote the release. He was on the Today show and The Daily Show on Monday and he also plans to make appearances in the UK this week.
I really don’t see it as a big deal nor will I rush out to get it for my home machine; which doesn’t matter anyway since I am, pretty much, exclusive to Mac. I still have my Windows XP computer running to continue to play my games but I do not use for it anything else, so I probably will not upgrade to Vista for a couple of years, if ever.
The new versions of Vista are: Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business & Enterprise. No other version of Windows in the past has had so many version. Windows XP had Home & Pro, that’s it. It’s really obvious in this marketing strategy of the many versions that it’s all about money and ripping you off. The Home Basic version (which is exactly what it means, very, very basic, not offering much to people who buy it) cost $100. The Home Premium version (a version with a few more additions added above Home Basic) will cost $160. And the best choice in all of these versions for the average PC user, the Ultimate edition, will cost a whopping $260. A rip-off in my opinion.
Now that I have converted to Mac and have become an annoying Mac fan-boy (as most of my friends and family call me), I’m actually looking forward to OS X Leopard when it comes out later this year from Apple for a very affordable (projected) price of $150.
What’s interesting in all of these choices of operating systems is that everyone forgets that you can download some good choice Linux distributions for free; Ubuntu, Fedora, & SUSE to name a few. The only issue with Linux right now, in my opinion, is that Linux is not quite there yet for the average home user. It’s usable, but not without some small anthills and speed bumps with hardware compatibility. I’ve used each one of these Linux versions but, even being the tech geek that I am, I do not find them completely practical for my everyday use.