An App By Any Other Name…Would Still Work Just As Well

Several months ago, I wrote a blog entry about an app called Read It Later.  (This is a bookmarking application capable of interfacing across multiple devices; I use it to share my bookmarks between the different operating systems on my computer, and between my computer, phone, and tablet.)  The web developer for Read It Later (also called Read It Later) recently released the app Pocket to replace it.  The application still runs on your computer exactly as it did prior to the name,

Click to save.

whether you’re surfing for links to save,



The website is now saved as a bookmark.

adding bookmarks,

New app, same look.

accessing your Reading List,

An unread bookmark.

editing your bookmarks,





A "Read" bookmark.

or marking your bookmarks as Read.




The mobile version of the app, however, has seen a few changes.

For starters, the app is now called “Pocket -formerly Read It Later”.  Before the change, users would only be able to access their first ten bookmarks at a time – to view more, they would have to purchase the full application.  Not so anymore.  Now the user has access to all of their bookmarks at any time, automatically downloaded to their device to be viewed online and offline.  Best of all, the app is still free!

If you are looking for a way to sync your bookmarks across multiple devices, Pocket is a good application to consider.  (I especially like to use it on my tablet: my Fire is not a 3G enabled device, so having the ability to access the bookmarks saved offline on my device via Pocket is convenient if I am not in an area with free WiFi.)  This app is available now for download both on the android and iPhone marketplaces.  Happy bookmarking!

My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part III

This is the conclusion of my three-part post, “My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part I & Part II“.  This evening, I will be going over the installation processes I underwent when creating virtual machines for both my Windows and Linux operating systems.  I used different processes for each OS, and want to cover each one for the sake of being thorough.

I partitioned my hard drive and installed Windows on my machine long before I had heard of virtual machines.  The inconvenience involved in the process of accessing either of the two different operating systems spawned my desire to seek out – and eventually find – a better solution to the “Windows problem”.  Instead of deleting Windows from my system and putting it into a virtual machine, I decided to create a VM to open my Boot Camp (Windows) partition inside of my Mac OS.  In other words, when I start-up my Boot Camp VM, my computer pulls my Windows OS from my Boot Camp partition and runs it in my Mac OS partition, only in a separate window.  How do you do this?  After installing Fusion onto your machine, open the application.  If you look towards the bottom of the Fusion window, you will see the following options to select: Create New, Migrate Existing PC, Run Boot Camp, and Learn More.  Click Run Boot Camp.

Click here to run Boot Camp in a virtual machine.

Type in your administrative password into the permissions box that pops up.  Fusion will then automatically create a virtual machine for your partitioned operating system, as well as download the VMware Tools that you will need to use every feature of Windows on your Mac OS.  While this installation is taking place, follow any onscreen instructions given by Fusion, and restart the virtual machine when prompted.  After the VMware Tools have been installed, Fusion will prompt you to restart your virtual machine again.  When you log onto your Windows VM for the first time, you will need to reactive Windows (the computer will remind you).  Congratulations!  You are now running your Windows OS in a virtual machine!

If you do not have Windows already installed on your machine, or if you want to add a different OS to your computer in addition to your Boot Camp VM, you will need to create a brand new virtual machine.  On the bottom of your Fusion window, click the Create New option.

Click here to create a new virtual machine.

You will then be prompted to insert the CD for your operating system of choice into the CD drive, if you have not already done so.  Once your computer recognizes your disk, the New Virtual Machine Assistant program will start.  On the Introduction panel that is shown, ensure that the “Install this operating system” option is selected, and then click Continue.  You will then be prompted for your display name and password, which you will need to enter in (if you are installing Windows, you will need to type in your Windows Product Key, as well as choose how your new virtual machine will handle file sharing).  Click Finish.  Fusion will then create your virtual machine, install VMware Tools, and prompt you to restart your new virtual machine.  Log-in to your new VM, and start using your newly installed OS!

Fusion 4 make the installation and application process involved in creating virtual machines simple.  Creating a VM is as easy as following onscreen prompts and remembering to be patient when the process lasts as long as thirty to forty-five minutes.  Start your free thirty-day trial of Fusion 4 today.  If you are not happy with the product (or virtual machines in general) simply throw it in the trash – thankfully, you will not have wasted any of your money along the way.  Good luck in your endeavors!

(March’s haiku will be up tomorrow!)

My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part II

In continuation from yesterday’s post, “My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part I”:

Apple computers come with a program called Boot Camp, which – after partitioning the hard drive – allows the user to install the Windows OS on their machine.  Of course, in order to use this option, the user must log off of the Mac OS X, reboot their computer, and then log on to Windows every time they wish to switch operating systems.  As you can imagine, this is not the most convenient of options, nor is it the quickest.  With a virtual machine, the user can simply log on to their other OS right from the operating system they are using – no rebooting necessary.  Of course, virtual machines were not made for Windows alone, but can also be used to house other systems as well (such as Linux or other forms of Unix).

While researching the various virtual machines available, I came across a rather informative article in the Macworld magazine, titled “How To: Run Windows On Your Mac” (by Rob Griffiths).  The bulk of this article is dedicated to describing the differences between two of the more popular choices in virtual machines – VMFusion and Parallels – and played a large part in helping me choose which virtual machine best fit my needs.  (Let it be known, there are other options available in addition to these two VMs (virtual machines).  These options include the VirtualBox from Oracle (free to download), QEMU (for Linux machines only, free to download), and the Windows Virtual PC (for Windows machines only, very limited in capabilities, free to use).)

For the purpose of this post, I am only going to concentrate my conversation on the merits of the Fusion and Parallels VMs.  They are the two virtual machines that I conducted the most research on; the positive customer reviews and impressive capabilities of these machines were both what captured my attention and acted as deciding factors when narrowing down my choices in preferred virtual machines.  The biggest difference between the two?  Fusion is for Macs only, while Parallels can work on multiple platforms.  The initial cost of both the Parallels and Fusion virtual machines is the same: $80.  There is a catch, however.  A Fusion license is good for every Mac computer a user controls or owns, while the Parallels license is only good for one machine.  In other words, deciding to run Parallels on multiple computers (say, for a business or school) will get really costly really quickly.

Fusion is also easy to install – there is no installer and the program can be stored anywhere the user desires.  Only on the initial start-up is the user’s administrative password required, and never again after that.  When the user chooses to quit Fusion, it shuts down completely – no background programs remain running.  Uninstalling is also a simple matter, requiring only that the application is dragged and dropped into the trash (no uninstall processes to go through here).  Parallels, on the other hand, uses an installer (and, thus, an uninstaller).  Also, despite the fact that the user may have fully exited Parallels, there are always two processes that continue to run in the background, regardless.

As far as virtual machine settings, performance, and updates go, the two systems are very much alike.  The user is provided with easy to access preferences and settings for both Fusion and Parallels, though the delivery of said options may differ.  They both perform rather well, although Fusion does run slightly faster than Parallels when using the virtual Windows OS.  Updates are frequent and relevant, with Parallels having a quicker updating period (Fusion takes longer between update periods, which results in larger updates).  While both machines can support virtual appliances (definition: when the computer uses just enough of the virtual operating system to run a software application, instead of running the entire OS every time), Fusion provides far more options to the user than Parallels.

Another large difference between the two virtual machines is the way Windows is “windowed”.  In Parallels, both the physical and virtual operating systems are shown on the same window (for a Mac user, this means that their Mac OS looks like it is running Windows applications alongside Mac applications, despite the fact that actually running the Windows OS as well).  Fusion shows Windows as a separate window:

In Fusion, Windows runs in a separate window - one that I can look at or hide when I please. One operating system at a time for me!

When using my virtual Windows OS in Fusion, I feel as though I am only running Windows, and have the ability to switch back and forth between operating systems by simply swiping with my mouse.  (I prefer to keep my operating systems separate, instead of combining them all on one screen – too much clutter.)

If you are a Windows gamer, then Parallels is the answer for you.  Parallels 7 (the newest version) far outperforms Fusion 4 (also, the newest).  Parallels dedicates one gigabyte of VRAM to game play, while Fusion only allows for 256 megabytes, resulting in a massively slow refresh rate.  The Parallels 3D engine also tends to work better for Windows games than the option provided by Fusion.  If gaming is the major reason you may be considering using a virtual machine, Parallels is your answer – hands down.

Which is the best choice?  While Fusion appears to be the better of the two, it really all boils down to personal preference.  You must ask yourself ‘how am I planning on using my virtual machine?’, and allow that answer to guide your choice in which VM is right for you.  Fusion was my answer, though it may not necessarily be yours (especially if you are a Windows user).  If in doubt, download the trial version of which ever VM you are considering (Parallels gives you fourteen days to play, and Fusion gives you thirty).  The website for the Fusion 4 virtual machine can be found here (look under the tab “Products” for a download link), and the Parallels virtual machine website is located here.

Part III – and the conclusion – for this post will be going up tomorrow.  I will be going through the installation process for Fusion, as used with both my Windows and Linux operating systems.  Until then!

My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part I

(No picture tonight…got to love rainy nights with thick cloud cover.  Mother Nature has a strange sense of timing.  Maybe tomorrow I will be more fortunate?)

Despite the fact that I was a Windows user for so many years, it took me little to no time to adapt and even prefer using the Mac OS X on my MacBook Pro.  When I decided to partition my hard drive and add the Windows OS to my machine, I could not believe the difference one year could make.  Take the touch pad, for example.  To this Mac user, my touch pad is everything.  The fact that most of the functions I had become so accustomed to were now inoperable, not to mention the inconvenience of having to perform a system reboot every time I needed to access Windows, were enough to ensure that I rarely logged on to my Windows partition at all.  Obviously, I needed a better solution.

This solution came to me after having a conversation with my father, another Mac user.  He suggested that I run my Windows OS in a virtual machine instead of straight from the partition.  What is a virtual machine?  “Imagine one computer containing multiple operating systems loaded on a single [computer], each of which functions as a separate OS on a separate physical machine. Virtualization software does just that by creating and managing one or more virtual machines on a single, physical host [computer].  Every virtual machine is a fully functioning virtual computer, where you can install a guest operating system of your choice, with network configuration, and a full suite of [computer] software.” (Source)  In other words, I can run my Windows OS at the same time as my Mac OS, no computer reboot necessary!  The best part of this?  I can now use more of my touchpad functions with Windows, making my Windows experience to be a much more pleasant one!  Decision made, I started to conduct research on the various virtual machines available on the ‘net and find the right fit for me.

For the sake of space, I am breaking this post into three parts.  In tomorrow’s post, I will talk in further detail about virtual machines, giving a few examples and going into the differences between them.  Thursday’s post will be my ‘how to’ post, in which I will explain how I installed VMFusion (my virtual machine of choice) and made it work with my computer.  Until then!

So You Think You Need A Tablet…

I had been interested in purchasing a tablet long before I eventually did – a combination of too many hours logged watching them in action on the television, and the few opportunities I had to interact with the tablets my father brought home from work.  The question I noticed popping up among consumers the most when conducting my research on various tablets was the following: how do you decide with tablet is the right one?  Should the decision be based on operating system? Brand? Price? Some combination of all three?

To answer this question, I first needed to ask myself what, exactly, I was planning on using my tablet for.  First off, I needed a tablet with an operating system capable of communicating with at least one of my other portable devices – my smart phone, which uses Android 2.3, or my laptop, which is running OS X and occasionally Windows 7.  The tablets I looked at offered several different options in operating systems (OS): Android, HP, iOS, and Blackberry’s OS were the major choices.  Narrowing down those options was not as difficult as I thought it would be: the HP Touchpad is no longer sold, I would not touch a Blackberry device with a ten-foot pole, and the iPad’s iOS is non-cooperative with every OS except its own – leaving Android as the only viable option.  With the Android OS, I could sync my applications across mobile devices – and find apps that could integrate with my laptop as well.

What else was important to me in a tablet?  I needed it to have at least eight Gigabytes of storage, to be WiFi capable, and to have a screen size of no more than eight inches.  This narrowed my choices down even further, leaving me to choose between the Samsung Galaxy, the Nook Touch, the Vizio Tablet, and the Kindle Fire.  Of course, this list did not encompass all of the tablets (that met those qualifications) in their totality – they are simply the ones I had given the most thought about out of that larger number.  I had no desire to purchase an “off brand” tablet and run the risk of disappointment with its quality.  As I was less than eager to spend $380 on a tablet, the Galaxy was out of the running.  The Vizio tablet had a slower CPU than both the Touch and Fire (only one Gigahertz, whereas Nook and Kindle are both Dual Core), and was only using Android 2.3 instead of 3.0 (2.3 was designed for phones, and 3.0 was designed for tablets).  The Vizio tablet’s less than impressive specifications made the decision to not purchase it an easy one.

I decided to go with the Kindle Fire over the Nook Touch for two major reasons: first, the Fire is $50 cheaper than the Nook Touch; second, the Touch is now being manufactured without the option of side-loading being available to the customer.  (Side-loading is when you download the .apk file of an app – the ‘install’ file, as it were – and send it to the device of your choice.  You then boot up the application on said device and install it from there, as opposed to using an app store/marketplace.  Since the Kindle Fire uses Amazon’s App store instead of Android’s, it does not have access to every app that the Android marketplace does.  Should you want to use an app that Amazon does not yet have access to, you have the choice of side-loading and installing it that way.)  I have never been fond of having my options limited, and so decided to go with the tablet with more user freedom.  Decision made, I ordered the Kindle Fire off of Amazon’s website, also purchasing a case and screen protectors to go with it.  Upon receiving it in the mail, I immediately got it up and running and started to customize it to fit my needs.  I definitely made the correct choice – I love my Kindle Fire!

**Disclaimer:  I am not encouraging readers to side-load or root their devices, only sharing information on a theoretical level.  What someone does with this information is completely up to them.

The Concluded (For Now) Memoirs of A Mac Addict (Or, The Transformation of A PC iNto A Mac)

One successful trip to Best Buy later and I was the overly proud owner of a new MacBook Pro.  I decided to purchase the model with the thirteen-inch monitor – when comparing them at the store, the differences in screen sizes was minimal in my eyes, and the lighter weight of the thirteen-inch was a huge plus!  After arriving home, I powered up my new laptop…and then partitioned the hard drive and added Windows via Bootcamp (I was ready for a change, not to cut the umbilical cord).  Now, almost one year has passed and I have since removed Windows from my system.  I plan to add it back at a later date – always best to never let your skills dry up, no matter how much I really do prefer my MacBook over the Windows operating system.

As I continue to test the limits of my laptop’s capabilities, I will be sure to post about any major differences (be they positive or negative) I notice between the Mac OS and the Windows OS (I have already made one post about some of the programs unique to the Mac OSX here).  I know that finding information posted by Mac users on the internet helped me make the decision to switch, and continues to answer any questions that I have even now (forums are my Geek Squad).  If there is ever anything in particular someone wishes to know about MacBooks, please post your query in the comments section of my blog post and I will answer them.  Until then!

The Continued Memoirs of A Mac Addict (Or, The Transformation of A PC iNto A Mac)

When I decided to take the leap and switch over to a Mac, I wanted to make sure I purchased the right one for me.  As you all know, Mac’s are not cheap: when buying a Mac, the consumer is paying for good quality hardware, for a computer that will last them years longer than a cheaply bought PC (homegrown PC’s are a completely different story).  Low prices tend to be the result of sacrifice – the cheaper the computer, the less features it will come with and the lower the quality pre-existing features will have.

To find out which Mac laptop was right for me, I needed to figure out exactly what I was planning to do with my new computer – how I planned on using it.  Would the MacBook Air be the better choice, or the MacBook Pro?  Which one would suite my needs most?  I hit the search engines (Google), trying to dig up every specification I could find to run a comparison on the two and decide which one would be the better fit.  I read that the Air, while cheaper, had a slower processor, less memory, and a less powerful graphics card than the Pro.  The lightness of the Air did make for a tempting possibility (especially when going back and forth to school and home while navigating the public transportation system.  It would certainly make a book bag much easier to carry), but I valued performance much more than I did aesthetic qualities.  That decision made, it was time to decide which Pro I wanted to buy.  For that, I needed to make a trip to Best Buy.  (To be continued…)

Memoirs of A Mac Addict (Or, The Transformation of A PC iNto A Mac)

One of the reasons I created this blog last year – in addition to giving myself a creative outlet – was to practice my technical writing skills.  So far, I have only succeeded at this particular goal seven out of fifteen posts…definitely not the ratio I was aiming for.  To remedy this, I have decided to dedicate blog space to my journey from PC user to Mac addict: the what’s, the why’s, the how’s, etc.  (I still intend to participate in the Daily Post Photo Challenges, as they are far too enjoyable to give up!)  At no point in these posts will I be bashing PC’s – I refuse to become the Mac user stereotype.  It is my opinion of the Mac that has changed, not that of the Windows-based system.

When I was fifteen years old, I decided that I wanted to buy a laptop.  My mother had a Compaq notebook at the time, and offered to sell it to me for $700.  As I had no way of procuring that kind of cash (my family was not big on the allowance thing – you did your chores, or you faced the consequences), I needed to land a decent job.  Thankfully, my sixteenth birthday was only months away, and I knew of an opening for a temporary worker at the Chicago Medical School’s LRC (Learning Resource Center).

My birthday came and went, and a few days after the big day I was a new employee of then Finch University (now called Rosalind Franklin).  I worked the rest of that school year after classes, and took on forty hour weeks during the summer to save up for that computer, meeting my goal just before the beginning of my senior year of high school.  That Compaq saw a lot of use, and lasted me all the way up until the end of that year, when it gave me a holiday gift: the blue screen of death.  For my graduation present, my parents bought me a Compaq desktop, and I used that computer every day up until its untimely death five months before my starting semester at the university.

Out of a computer and armed with a tax refund check, I decided to try my luck at owning an HP laptop.  While this computer did not commit suicide on me, I did start to have problems with it pretty much out of the box.  Within three months of owning it, my DVD drive completely died, forcing me to purchase an external player to use for my classes (I could not return my laptop to HP during the school semester, at least, not if I wanted to pass my classes).  My battery died before the notebook’s first birthday, and the new battery I received from HP was never able to hold as long a charge.  Thankfully, not once did I ever have a problem with the HP’s software; it was only the hardware kept failing on me.  Desperate for a laptop that would last me longer than half a year before breaking down, I decided to follow my father’s advice and purchase a Mac.  I have not had a hardware issue since.  (To be continued…)

Chipmunks and Aliens and Frogs, Oh My!

I am a somewhat recent Mac convert – and by recent, I mean that I have owned my MacBook for almost a year.  As with any new piece of technology, new or new to me, I enjoy thoroughly exploring all that it has to offer.  In the case of a new computer, this is done through testing out each included program and learning about its every feature and capability.  This is how I stumbled across the Photo Booth program that came standard in my new laptop.  Photo Booth is a program that allows the user to take pictures or video footage of themselves (or anyone in front of that computer’s webcam) using different picture styles, distortions, or backgrounds.  Photos can be saved with or without effects – a helpful option to use should the “photographer” change their mind about using a distortion.  The user can also import their own picture or video file to use as a backdrop for their “photo shoot”, or they can use the backgrounds provided that come standard with the program.  Finished products can be shared via email, used as an account picture or iChat icon, or sent to iPhoto for further editing.

After today, I can honestly say that I feel more like a pro at using this particular program.  When staring at each other and making silly faces got old, my nephews and I decided to instead stare and make silly faces at my webcam while playing with various Photo Booth features.  The “chipmunk”, “space alien”, and “frog” distortions had, by far, the most amusing outcomes, while the “light tunnel” distortion and included “sky background” were the most popular with my nephews.  All in all, thirty-four pictures were saved, and more than a few of them will be sent to the boys’ father to keep with him at his Army platoon’s basic training site.  Photo Booth is both a useful photo and video taking program, as well as an easy way to spend an enjoyable time with one’s family.  Thanks for the new memories,  MacBook!