Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

In Search of the Best Browser

Exploring the World Wide Web and discovering new information and ideas is one of my favorite computer activities. Most of us have acquired rudimentary browser skills, but all too many casual users fail to explore the wide range of web browser choices available by staying with “the one that came with my computer.”

Just which program is the best web browser?

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Introduced in 1985, Microsoft Windows proceeded to dominate the world’s personal computer market, peaking with a 95% market share in 2003. That dominance began to fade by 2009 and was finally surpassed by Google’s Android operating system in 2017.

Steve Balmer became CEO of Microsoft in 2000 and established a “devices and services” strategy. Under his 13 year tenure, revenues more than doubled. He added the profitable x-box entertainment and data centers divisions to Microsoft’s product lines, but he failed to capitalize on tablet computing, smartphones and music player opportunities, seeing them as threats to the continuing success of Windows and Office.

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Happy Anniversary!

The first cell phone call was made 45 years ago – on April 3rd, 1973 by Martin Cooper, a Motorola engineer. He jubilantly called Joseph Engel, his rival at Bell Labs. Mobile telephone service had been introduced in 1946 by AT&T; their MTS system linked VHS radio signals to the local telephone system, requiring eighty pounds of hardware mounted in an automobile.

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Everybody’s Doin’ It!

Andrew Weinreich launched “Six Degrees” in 1997. Based on the theory that every person in the world could be connected to each other by just six degrees of separation, the new web service encouraged members to share personal profiles and contacts. Now regarded as the first recognizable social networking service, Six Degrees grew to over one million members but closed in four years. MySpace and LinkedIn gained prominence in the early 2000s. By 2006, Facebook and Twitter first became available worldwide.

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Is a New Computer on Your Holiday Shopping List?

If it’s been a while since your last computer purchase, you’ll find the marketplace has undergone a sea change in the last few years. You’ll have a bewildering number of choices and receive conflicting advice. For SaddleBrooke residents, your first computer was almost certainly a desktop or laptop that came with a Microsoft or Apple operating system. Often shared with the whole family, it was usually located on a desk in a quiet area. Remember those “Are you a Mac or a PC?” commercials circa 2007?

Most business offices continue to regard desktops as standard equipment. Desktop computers remain the go-to computers for serious image editing and software development. Desktops are still preferred by advanced gamers and longtime tech hobbyists; they provide the best value for those who need powerful, highly customizable systems.

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Flash –Walking the Last Mile

If you have had difficulties getting Adobe Flash to work on your computer lately, that’s actually a good thing! New security problems targeted specifically at Flash installations are constantly emerging. Adobe issues frequent security updates, but new problems continue to arise almost daily, with no apparent end in sight.

All the most popular Internet browsers now routinely block Flash.  Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge are now on the “Flash must die!” bandwagon started by Steve Jobs 10 years ago when Apple refused to support Flash on the newly introduced iPhone in 2007.

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Fast and Curious

One of my favorite indulgences is a speedy new computer with a generous serving of new technology to explore. This fascination began in 1982 with a Commodore 64, which went on to become highest-selling single computer model of all time. When inexpensive clones of the IBM Personal Computer arrived two years later, offering a 10 fold increase in speed with 10 times as much memory, it didn’t take long for me to make the switch. When the local computer store was shuttered a few years later, I learned to do my own repairs and upgrades – the closest repair shop was now 100 miles away!

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Deja Vu All over Again?

Microsoft recently introduced the Surface Laptop, attempting to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Surface Pro series of convertible tablets, the Surface Book and the Surface Studio. This new 13.5” laptop will initially be marketed to schools and students, but “it’s also a great choice for any Windows user looking for consistent performance and advanced security.”

More importantly, the product also introduces Windows 10 S, “a specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro that offers a familiar, productive Windows experience that’s streamlined for security and performance. By exclusively using apps in the Windows Store and ensuring that you browse safely with Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 S keeps you running fast and secure day in and day out”. Not coincidentally, exclusive use of Microsoft Edge and Bing search will be mandatory. Schools will be able to convert all their current compatible computers to Windows 10 S at no cost; registered students will also get free access to Office 365.

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The Goldilocks Chair

I’ve been refreshing and reorganizing my work space this summer – clearing out accumulated old software, magazines, retired equipment, and taking a serious look at what irritating deficiencies need to be addressed. I tend to use things until they break or become obsolete, only to realize that they should have been replaced years ago. My twin 10 year old monitors will be replaced by the time you read this column, and I have belatedly replaced my task chair – again.

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