Archive for category Rants/Thoughts

Rant about Windows accessibly

Many of you may or may not know that I am legally blind. I use computers on a daily basis, and plan on going to college for Computer Science. I can pretty much use a computer normally (without the assistance of enlarging software) but need to be a few inches from the screen to read any text. I have used all three major operating systems (Windows, Mac OS X, and a few Linux distros). Out of all three, Windows has been the worst in terms of accessibility. Before Windows 7, as many of you may know, the only built in screen magnification software split the screen in half, one with the regular size, then a docked window which showed the zoomed in view. This is horribly inconvenient, inefficient, and just doesn’t work well.
With Windows 7, it has been much improved. If you haven’t used the built in Windows 7 magnifier, it basically brings up a small window with options to increase/decrease the zoom level, as well as change the view between full screen, lens, and docked. This means that all of the major OS’s have some kind of full screen magnification tool, but Windows is still behind in my book. On Mac OS X (and Linux even) you can hold a key and scroll up and down the the trackpad. In Windows, you have to either hit Win+/- or press the two buttons in the magnifier window. This could be much more intuitive. Also, while zooming in Windows, it increases a set amount each time, so it’s not very smooth. On OS X and Linux it is a very smooth zoom in and out. This may not seem like such a big deal but when using it on a daily basis, it is.
There are other programs you can buy for Windows that will do a better job (one I use is called ZoomText), but these are expensive. Luckily, I get a free copy of ZoomText because of my blindness. This program is better than the built in Windows magnifier, but it still doesn’t have a smooth zooming experience. It is also less intuitive just because on most Windows laptops, you don’t have multitouch scrolling (just moving your finger along the side of the touchpad).
To simply this post:
Mac and Linux – Intuitive and smooth scrolling with two finger scrolling.
Windows – A good enough magnifier but isn’t as smooth or intuitive as other platforms. Expensive alternatives exist but still aren’t as good as the defaults on other platforms.
I really hope Microsoft improves their magnifier program on future versions of Windows.

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RANT: Netflix changing pricing options

Netflix just announced new pricing options. They are going to be splitting up streaming and dvd rentals into two separate plans. The streaming only plan will be $7.99 a month, and the new DVD rental only (1 dvd out at a time) plan will also be $7.99 a month. The worst part? To get both services, you will have to subscribe to BOTH plans. The old $9.99 a month for unlimited streaming and 1 DVD at a time will be completely phased out. After September 1st, 2011, anyone on the old $10 plan will be forced to change. To keep the same service, the price will increase to $15.98. This is ridiculous! Why make many existing (and loyal) customers pay MORE to get the same service?? If every movie Netflix offered was available to stream, then this wouldn’t be as bad, but considering the streaming selection isn’t all that large, this is just stupid. Part of this isn’t Netflix’s fault, it’s the record labels. However, Netflix could still offer a discounted plan for both streaming and dvd rentals.

Unless Netflix changes these prices, I can see many upset customers leaving for other services such as Redbox.

 

Read the official post on the Netflix blog for more information

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Clean up your Facebook apps!

When was the last time you saw a “friend” post a link to someone else’s wall (or update their status), and you knew that link wasn’t from them? I’m guessing everyone has seen this at least once. Maybe you were a victim of this Facebook Spam yourself. What can you do to prevent this, and what can you do to stop it if it happens? The answer is actually very simple: delete the app.

If you are having trouble navigating Facebook (which I admit, I had to dig to find the location of the apps page) then just follow these steps:

  1. Click the Account link (at the top right) and click Privacy Settings.
  2. Scroll down and click the “Edit your settings” link under the “Apps and Websites” section.
  3. Click the Remove link (under the Apps You Use section)
  4. Find which app you want to delete (if you don’t know what it is, go to a post it made and look below it. It should say “Posted via [appname]”), hover your mouse over it, and click the little X at the right.
  5. Click Remove in the confirmation box, then click Okay
If you’ve never cleaned up your apps before, now would be a good time. You will be surprised at how many apps are “installed” on your Facebook account. Basically, every time you Allowed something access, you “installed” an app. Also, if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, apps such as Doodle Jump or Fruit Ninja will install an app if you post your high score to Facebook.

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Why OpenOffice can’t be as good as Microsoft Office

Recently, the new computers at my school have been switched completely to OpenOffice, and do not come with Microsoft Office anymore (cost savings). This has caused many problems. One of the big issues is compatibility. Many teachers and students have MS Office installed on their home computer. If they make a document in MS Office, it might not come out the same on OpenOffice. This is especially true for “powerpoints.” Many teachers use PowerPoints as a way to display notes. Since teachers are getting new computers, they must reformat their current presentations in order for them to work correctly in OpenOffice. Also, OpenOffice seems very slow and just not as intuitive to me as MS Office. I used OpenOffice to create a presentation recently (so it would come up without issues on the teacher’s computer) and it frustrated me. I had to Google how to do things that should have been simple. Things such as Print Preview are not in OpenOffice. If I clicked outside of a textbox, it would take me at least two tries every time to be able to edit the text again.
When viewing presentations, the effects seem to take longer and just lag whereas MS PowerPoint is nice and responsive. I’ve had to resort to viewing the powerpoint by clicking each slide in editing mode, which is very annoying.
Also, OpenOffice will always be a step behind MS Office in terms of features because they will be released in MS Office before the developers of OpenOffice start integrating them into their programs.

OpenOffice is a pretty good alternative to MS Office if you are creating everything IN OpenOffice, but if you frequently have to view MS Office documents, it would be better to invest in MS Office (or for PowerPoints, get the free Powerpoint Viewer from Microsoft)

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Will e-Readers ever replace physical books?

With all the hype of tablets and e-readers coming out, I thought this was an interesting topic. As of right now, I do not own an actual e-reader. The closest I come is my iPod Touch with iBooks. I do, however, have some books on my computer. I think books will never be completely replaced. There are a few reasons why I think this. One, computers are kind of expensive. That can also expand to anything “technical.” Not everyone can afford a laptop, iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc. Books are cheaper right now because they’re just paper (for the most part). Also, e-readers require a power source. This means that if you get stuck somewhere without electricity, and your e-reader’s battery dies, then you can’t access the content on that e-reader. With books, you can read them almost anywhere, even if you don’t have any source of electricity. Another negative of e-readers is that they can cause more eye strain than reading from paper would. This is more true with devices such as computers and iPads. Other devices, such as the Kindle, have eInk displays, which (I’ve been told) look almost like paper. If reading with an e-reader causes eye strain, then people are not going to use them. They would rather use normal books.

I do see the uses with e-readers however. They can hold more than one book at a time, so they take up much less space than having the same amount of physical books. This is very helpful for collage students. Instead of having to carry a bunch of books around, they can just carry the e-reader. It also allows them to carry around every book (assuming all the books are available for whatever e-reader they choose) instead of having to worry about taking the right book for the class. E-readers also make it much easier to gain access to a certain book. With traditional books, you have to go to the library and check out a book. With e-readers, you can just open up the store on the device, and buy a book for a few dollars. The book is then downloaded to the device and can be read right away. There are also no late-fees. If the book is rented from an online store, it will just become unusable after a certain period of time.

Do you have anything to add? Post in the comments below this post. Also, follow me on Twitter and Youtube

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Youtube Rant

If you use Youtube on a regular basis, you may have noticed that there have been some changes recently. Some of these changes are a new layout to the subscriptions module for the homescreen, a bar at the bottom of each video with your subscriptions, and a default feature that goes to your next subscription automatically after one video is done playing.
I am not a fan of these features. The bar was incredibly in the way, and made it harder to navigate the page. Every time you moved your mouse over the bottom of the page, a big window would come up and block the description and comments. There is a way to turn this off, using AdBlock Plus (http://mobitureblog.squarespace.com/mobiture/2010/7/30/remove-the-youtube-playlist-bar-how-to.html)

Also, the auto-advance feature is pretty annoying (and I haven’t found a way to turn it off without the bar) because I don’t want my video going off to the next one. I like to read the comments after the video’s done playing.
Basically, the reason for this rant is that many people have been complaining about the new YouTube features. Why doesn’t Google just keep things the same and focus on bug fixes (and other things) before changing around the UI?

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Setting up a router with Time Warner Cable (Roadrunner)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to setup a new (store-bought) router with my Time Warner Cable modem. This is what happened. Before setting up the router, I had been using the Time Warner provided modem (which also acted as a wireless router). I had been living with this for a long time (technically since we signed up for TWC RR, but we’ve had the modem replaced once) but I started getting annoyed because we could only connect up to 5 devices at a time. In my house (currently) there are four computers, an iPod Touch, and a Nintendo Wii. That’s 6 devices that connect to the Internet. I also wanted more control over my router settings. I received a new Belkin router (I believe purchased at Walmart). Before I got the router, I discussed the 5 device limit with Time Warner over Twitter and discovered that the current modem would have to be put into bridge mode. It made sense, since I’ve helped others setup a router in the past. This is the weird part. The only way the modem could be put into bridge mode was to call Tier 3 support and have them do it (it’s not a user accessible feature). Time Warner gave me the number to call for tech support (my local number). I had to call this number previously and it isn’t the greatest system in the world. You have to go through many menu’s, and there are only 2 options for Roadrunner support. Neither of the two options were really close to what I wanted. I went back to Twitter and told the Time Warner account my issue with calling in. They DM’ed me a private number (and told me not to give it out). I called this number and was told that all the reps were not available and was put on hold. After waiting for a little bit, I decided to hang up and try again. This time it was just a busy signal. I went to Twitter again, told the TWC account about the busy signal, and was given another private number. The same thing happened. I was put on hold the first time, and got a busy signal every other time. The Time Warner Twitter account apologized and said they could have a TWC rep call my house. At the time, I was just about to leave for the Fourth of July weekend, where I would have no internet access. I asked if they could call me when I got back and they said they could. I asked the TWC account when a rep could call me but then had to leave to pick up some things at Walmart. While I was gone, the TWC account asked me the best number to contact me. Since I didn’t answer, they looked up the number for the account on file. A rep called and left a message (leaving the number to call back as the first number that didn’t have a relevant option) but thought I was having trouble connecting to a wireless network. Um.. no, that wasn’t the problem.

Yesterday (7/9/10) I finally told the TWC account call my house. When they called, I was surprised. The rep calling me knew exactly what I wanted done. When I answered the rep said “I understand you want your modem to be put into bridge mode?” which was exactly what I wanted. The rep said he was logging into the modem and was silent for a few minutes. He then came back and said that it was in bridge mode and was rebooting. I was very relieved. I unplugged the computer that was hard-wired to the modem and plugged in the router. I thanked the rep and hung up (the rep I spoke with on the phone was very good) but the trouble didn’t end here.

I had installed the router software previously. I tried connecting with the computer that had the software installed, but it wouldn’t connect. It kept trying to acquire a network address but then disconnecting. The hard-wired computer worked fine. I then tried connecting my laptop. I installed the router software and it did the same thing as my desktop (both wireless, both had the software installed). I finally realized that the router software must be causing some sort of problem, so I uninstalled it from my laptop and it connected fine. I then uninstalled the router software from my desktop, which then connected fine as well. I then connected the Wii, iPod Touch, and fourth computer fine without any issues. I still find it ironic that the software, that came with the router, screwed up the connection to the router.

Anyway, the router is now working fine and every internet-enabled device in my house is now connected fine and simultaneously.

The Time Warner support was very helpful and patient. I do find it very annoying that I couldn’t have just put my modem into bridge mode by myself (like other ISP’s allow) but other than that I think it went pretty much OK.

Sorry this was such a long post, but it summed up my struggles in the past few weeks (regarding Time Warner anyway)

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Youtube.

 

EDIT: Comments have been disabled for this post because it has attracted a lot of spam.

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