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!

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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!

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…)