Windows in my Mac

Just a few quick comments about a recent Windows installation.

I’m a Mac users. I’ve always been a Mac user. I got my first Mac back in 1989 and have been buying Macs ever since.

Unfortunately, as the author of computer books, I found it necessary to buy and use a Windows PC when writing about Windows software such as Excel, Word, and Quicken. I’ve owned three of them (I think) since 1995 and only used them when I either needed to write a book about some kind of Windows application or load GPS data onto the data card for my helicopter’s Garmin 420 GPS. (Sadly, Jeppesen doesn’t think it’s worth developing an app for Mac OS users.)

I’m writing fewer books these days and, since giving up my Quicken for Windows title two years ago, very seldom write about anything on Windows. I like it that way. Although I have no problem using Windows, I don’t really understand its logic and waste a lot of time flailing about, trying to figure out silly little things. I don’t have that problem as much when I’m working with an application; it’s the operating system that frustrates me.

This past summer, I dragged my Windows laptop all the way up to Washington with me in case I needed it. I never even took it out of the cabinet. Nice.

This past week, I needed to revise an outline for a Microsoft Word course I may be authoring for I’d written the original outline based on Word 2011 for Mac OS — the version I’m using now on my Mac. But the folks at Lynda told me they wanted a Windows 2010 version of the course. That meant two things:

  • I needed to update the outline for Word 2010.
  • I needed to install Word 2010 on my Windows laptop.

So I pulled out my Dell Latitude D820 laptop, plugged it in, and fired it up. It came to life slowly, connected to the Internet, and downloaded/installed 49 Windows updates to Windows Vista.

The next day, I attempted to load Office 2010. The computer wasn’t having any part of that. It just showed me a spinning wait cursor every time I tried to open the installer.

I looked at my Mac — a new (in June 2011) 27-inch iMac with 8GB of RAM, 2 internal hard disks, and every hardware upgrade they offered. This machine is loaded. (I deserve it. Really.) And in case 27 inches (2560×1440 resolution) of real estate isn’t enough, I have a 24-inch (1920×1200 resolution) Samsung monitor connected to it. I wondered…could I put Windows 7 on my iMac under Parallels and run it in one monitor while I ran my Mac OS stuff in the other?

The answer is: Yes, I can.

I already had Parallels Desktop 6 (from a MacUpdate offer last spring) and Windows 7 which I planned to install on my PC laptop the next time I had to write a Windows book. (Yes, I know most folks think VMware Fusion is better, but why buy a solution when I already have one?) I installed Parallels and then installed Windows 7 in a virtual machine. And then I installed Office 2010 on Windows 7. I maximized the Parallels window containing Windows on my 24-inch Samsung. And voila! Windows and Macintosh running side by side on the same computer as if they’re on separate computers.

Windows and Mac, Together

Sure beats firing up that ancient laptop. (Anyone want to buy it?)

Now if only Windows would stop updating itself every time I shut it down or start it back up.

Back to Basics with my 12″ PowerBook

Who needs a netbook? I got this old clunker.

PowerBookYears ago, I bought a 12″ PowerBook. I was attracted to its small size and great power. Back when it was first released, you may remember, it was considered a tiny marvel. While other people flocked to the 17″ PowerBook, I wanted sheer portability and the 12″ was my dream laptop.

Time marches on. A G4 processor operating with 640 MB of RAM isn’t anyone’s dream machine anymore. Hell, when I tried to install Leopard on it last year, it was so slow I had to rebuild the hard disk with Tiger on it.

And I think that’s when I fell out of love with it.

You see, in the meantime, I’d bought a 15″ MacBook Pro. Not one of the new ones — this one is about two years old now. I’d bought it as a test mule — a computer to run software on while I write about the software. But when I finished my Leopard book in September 2007, I began using the MacBook Pro more and more. And when I couldn’t get Leopard to run on the 12″, I realized that it was silly to use an old laptop when I had a newer one. The 12″ wound up on the shelf.

But this morning I pulled it out and dusted it off and fired it up. I let it update Microsoft Office 2004 and various Apple software. I updated my ecto database to pull in all the blog entries I’d written over the past year. And I started writing this.

The sad part about this PowerBook is that the battery is so toasted that it won’t hold a charge for more than 20 minutes of operations. So as a portable computer for use in coffee shops, etc., it fails miserably. But plug it in and sit at the kitchen table and it does everything it’s supposed to.

I want a netbook. I’m sorely tempted by the Dell Mini 9. A buddy of mine says he can transform it into a Hackintosh for me. But I’m also hoping that Apple comes out with their own netbook. If they price it reasonably — and I’m talking about well under $1,000 — I’ll be the first on line to buy one.

And frankly, I don’t give a damn about the so-called “Apple Tax.” Dan Miller of was right in his article, “The Microsoft Discount.” He could be speaking for me when he says:

But for the benefit of my Windows-using friends, I will say for the record: I don’t use a Mac because it’s cool. I use it because it works better for me. I use it because it doesn’t stink.

I’ve got a hopped-up Windows laptop that’s way faster than this little old PowerBook. But when it came time to do a little blogging this morning, I left it gathering dust on the shelf.

Four Steps to Get the Most Out of Twitter

Some tips for taking the “yuk” out.

I first heard about Twitter a few months ago on either the MacBreak Weekly or TWiT (This Week in Tech) podcast. (Both highly recommended, by the way.) I immediately checked it out. At first, I thought it was kind of cool, but then I realized that it was nothing more than a gigantic, worldwide chat room. Everyone talking, few people talking to a specific other person, some people even talking in languages other than English (imagine that!), few people saying anything of interest.

Twitter is a micro blogging tool. If you looked at 100 random blog posts from all over the blogoshere, how many of them do you think you’d like? This is the same. Look at 100 random tweets and you’re likely to find very few that are even worth the time it took to read them.

And they’re only up to 140 character long.

First Impressions

Miraz summed it up in a comment on yesterday’s “Reach Out and Meet Someone” post here:

I’m really interested by your previous post and comments here about Twitter. I’d noticed Twitter and found my first, and strong, reaction was Yuk!

The next time I looked was the other day when I thought I should include it in a book I’m writing for community groups. This time I looked and just felt old.

I see it as a monumental waste of time and a triviality, so I find your comments about feeling more connected to people particularly useful.

I felt exactly the same way. Yet people were talking about it and raving, in many cases. So I figured I was probably missing something and decided to give it a closer look.

You Need to Scrape Away the Bull

The main complaint about Twitter is: who really cares about what all these people are doing? What you had for breakfast isn’t very interesting. What you’re watching on TV isn’t interesting either. And why all the cryptic statements? Are you trying to be cool?

But if you could scrape away all the bull and concentrate on the content that may be of real interest to you, Twitter does have some value. I’ve gotten a glimpse of it. Not enough to convince me that it’s good, but enough to make me think that it might be.

Here’s what I did to reach this point. I recommend these steps to anyone who wants to give Twitter a real try.

Step 1: Create a Twitter Account

I’m not going to explain how to do this. You can go to Twitter and follow the instructions online to do it yourself.

I definitely recommend that you choose an appropriate image for your identity there. Something that gives people an idea of what you’re all about. For a while, mine was the same image I currently use for my Gravatar: my helicopter’s back end with hot air balloons in the background. Pretty but not very real. I’ve since switched it to my standard head shot, which I hope to get redone one of these days. Most Twitter users either use a photo or a cartoon for their images. My advice: don’t use established cartoon characters; one of these days, someone’s going to start suing.

While you’re in your account settings, be sure to create a one-line (they really mean about six-word) bio of yourself. It appears when someone goes to your Twitter page. Set your time zone, enter the full URL for your Web site or blog, and just provide the needed info. If you don’t want to be on the public timeline, there’s a box you can check. I wouldn’t check it unless you’re worried about stalkers or some other crazy thing. After all, there is a slight chance that you might impress someone reading the public timeline (whoever that might be) enough to make a new friend.

Step 2: Download and Install a Tweeting Tool

I cannot over emphasize the importance of this step. Sure, you can keep your Twitter home page open and refresh it once in a while to see what’s new. But there are better ways to get involved with Twitter.

For a while, I used a Dashboard widget to compose and send my tweets. This was convenient; press F12, fill in a form, press Return, and press F12 again to get back to work. This added my tweets to Twitter, but did not display the tweets of my friends.

TwitterificThen I discovered Twitterific. Frankly, I can’t imagine using Twitter without this little application. (Now calm down, folks. You can use the Comments link or form at the bottom of this post to tell me why your favorite Twitter tool is better.) It features a resizable window that captures and displays not only your tweets, but the tweets of all the Twitter users that you follow. There are a variety of notification options with and without sound. And, best of all, there’s a tiny form at the bottom of the window that you can use to enter your own tweets.

Twitterific has just one problem — and it doesn’t affect me at all: it requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later. Yes, it’s a Mac-only application. (I’m relying on the PC folks reading this to use the Comments link or form to tell us what they’re using. Let’s hope they don’t let us down.)

Twitter also works with instant messaging and I’m pretty sure you can use your IM client (iChat, MSN, AOL, etc.) to interact with Twitter. But since this article’s intention isn’t to explain all the different ways you can use Twitter, I’ll let you explore that option on your own.

And Twitter does work with text messaging on a cell phone. But if you enable and regularly use that feature, you really need to get a life.

Step 3: Find People to Follow

You don’t want to monitor the public timeline. Trust me: it’s a waste of time. You want to follow the tweets of a select group of people. People that you select.

There are a few ways you can find people to follow:

  • Ask your friends, family members, and work associates if they have Twitter accounts. If they don’t, use the Invite form on your Twitter account to invite them. Be sure to use the extra note field to explain what this is all about. You might want to point them to an article about Twitter (like this one?) or a favorable review. The people you invite should be people that spend a lot of time in front of a computer connected to the Internet, so tweeting will be easy and convenient for them.
  • Track down the Twitter accounts of famous people you want to follow. Believe it or not, Barack Obama has a Twitter account. (I don’t follow him.) So does Stephen Colbert. (I do follow him.) Now, obviously, these people have better things to do with their time than send tweets out into the blogosphere, so their tweets are likely composed by their staff and have some kind of marketing value. Obama’s is strictly campaign stuff. Colbert’s is a bunch of typical Colbert-style one-liners. These are just examples. I’m sure plenty of celebs have Twitter accounts, if you’re into the celeb thing.
  • Check the blogs you follow. Quite a few bloggers have Twitter accounts. If you like the blogger’s blog, then you might like his tweets. I found a number of interesting people to follow this way.

Make these people your “Friends” — that’s Twitter’s term for the people you follow. Doing that is easy; just go to their Twitter timeline and click an Add link under Actions.

If someone makes you a friend, he’ll be listed under your followers. It’s always nice to add them as friends, too. It might give you insight as to why they added you. And you can always “Leave” them if you decide you don’t like their tweets.

Which brings up the next point. Once in a while, you’ll discover that you really don’t like the tweets of one of your “friends.” (I really feel a need to put that in quotes since the people you follow might not be real friends.) Just go to your Twitter page, view your list of friends. and click a Leave link under his name/icon. I did this just the other day when I decided that one of my “friends” was getting a bit too political for my taste. (No, I don’t want to sign your online petition, thank you.) Click of a link and I don’t have to hear from him anymore.

Step 4: Post Tweets

Even if you have no followers, you should make it a habit to post tweets on a somewhat regular basis. I’m not saying you need to do it daily or hourly or weekly or every ten minutes. I’m saying you should do it at least occasionally, when you have something to say.

I tend to tweet when I sit down to start a project or finish one up. This morning, I tweeted about going down to feed my horses and about a new article posted on my site. When this article is finished and posted, I’ll tweet about it and provide a link.

Be particular about the content of your tweets. Try to limit yourself to tweets that people might actually be interested in. Okay, you had eggs for breakfast. But don’t tweet about it unless you fetched those eggs out of a henhouse and the rooster tried to kill you or you cooked them in a microwave, causing them to explode all over the inside and start a fire. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. But you know what I mean. Something interesting.

You can make all your tweets self-promotional, but I assure you that you’ll have very few followers — unless, of course, you’re famous and people want to read about your latest book, movie, radio show, interview, podcast, etc. I admit that my tweeting about articles as they are released has an element of self-promotion to it, but I’d like to think that some people might want to check out some of what I’m writing about. After all, if you were using Twitter, wouldn’t you be slightly interested in an article about it?

Remember, Twitter limits you to 140 characters per tweet. Don’t feel as if you have to fill them. It automatically converts long URLs to short ones (using tinyurl), so don’t worry about URLs taking up all your characters. Just keep it short and sweet.

As for writing style, Grammar Girl wrote an excellent style guide for tweets, “Grammar Girl’s Strunk & Twite: An Unofficial Twitter Style Guide.” Read it and use it. Please.

The Twitter Virus

I first read the phrase Twitter virus yesterday. At first, I thought it was some kind of real computer virus. But apparently, it refers to a person’s active involvement in Twitter — in other words, tweeting the moments of your day all day every day.

A certain amount of Twitter virus is vital to using Twitter and attracting and keeping followers. But if you’ve got it too bad — like a certain person I follow who tweeted from his cell phone about being stuck in traffic waiting at a railroad crossing this morning — you probably want to take a step back and think hard about your involvement.

While a tool like Twitterific makes participating in Twitter extremely easy, don’t get carried away. The people who follow you don’t need (or probably want) every detail of your life.

Try It

Twitter is also a social networking tool. I participate because I find it interesting to see what other people do and think throughout their day. I leave the Twitterific window open — I have a 20″ monitor, so there’s enough real estate for it — and peek at it once in a while. And then I tweet when I have something to say. It’s pretty effortless and it certainly doesn’t take much out of my day.

Now you know what I do with Twitter and how you can make it a worthwhile experiment. Don’t be shy. Try it. It’s all free and, if you don’t catch the virus, you can quit it at any time.

More on Twitter

Frivolous and a waste of time, but kind of cool, too.

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is

a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website, or an application such as Twitterrific.

Some More Details

Here’s how it works.

You join Twitter by signing up for a free membership.

You can then use the Twitter Web site, an application such as Twitterific (Mac OS only; there must be something out there for Windows users), a Dashboard Widget such as Twitterlex or Twidget (Mac OS only), SMS, or instant messaging to compose a 140-character-or-less mini blog post — referred to as a tweet — and post it to the Twitter service.

Your tweet goes into the Twitter public timeline (shown below), a constantly updated listing of recent tweets that changes so frequently, you probably won’t see your tweet appear because by the time you refresh the page, 20 or 30 other Twitter users have posted their tweets, thus pushing yours off the page. Much of what does appear is pretty boring. Some of it is clearly promotional or self-promotional. Some of it is in languages other than English.) And, of course, there’s the usual low-level chat mentality of posting nonsense apparently in an effort to fill bandwidth with inane chatter.

The Twitter Public Timeline

So, in short, Twitter enables you to broadcast, to the world, what you’re doing at that very moment or, if you’re not doing anything worth talking about, whatever message you want to broadcast. But very few people are likely to see it, so it’s a lot like shouting out of a helicopter window while flying over the Pacific Ocean — pretty much a waste of communication effort.

Follow the Tweets of your Friends

TwitterificFortunately, there is a way to weed out the stuff you don’t want to see and to concentrate on the stuff you do want to see. Just create a network of “friends” and people you “follow.” As you find other Twitter members you’re interested in, you add them as friends. Then, when you view your Twitter home page or use an application like Twitterific (shown here) to keep up to date, you only see the tweets from the people you care about.

My only problem is, either the people I care about don’t use Twitter or, if they do, I don’t know their Twitter User IDs so I can’t add them as friends. This is probably because I’m not hip — a situation I’m quite used to, since I’ve been dealing with it my entire life.

Put Your Tweets on Your Blog or Site

Twitter BadgeA cool feature of Twitter is the ability to add a Twitter badge to your Web site or blog. You can see my Twitter badge (if it’s still online when you read this) in the navigation bar on the Home page of my Web site. Here’s a screen shot of it, just in case I removed it. (I’m so fickle about features on my site.)

You can modify the color of the badge, but not much else. I think the badge is too big for the 140 characters allowed, given the microscopic font size. I was unable to tweak it for the appearance I wanted. What’s nice is that it includes a link to my Twitter page for people who care about me to follow me. I don’t think anyone has yet. That doesn’t surprise me, given that I’m not hip.

By the way, adding the badge to your site is pretty easy. Follow the link to Badges, set options as desired, then copy the resulting code and paste it into your site or blog where you want it to appear. It automatically shows your most recent tweet when the page is loaded.

Similar Services

I first heard about Twitter on the TWiT (no relation) podcast. (TWiT is short for This Week in Tech and it’s hosted by Leo Laporte. Since raving about it on a show, Leo has since switched to rival service Jaiku. I don’t know anything about Jaiku (yet) and am too busy today to explore it. But you can expect an article about it in the future.

Who knows? It might be a better solution for folks with hipness deficiencies.

Looking for other Twitters

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and maintain a Twit account, I welcome you to promote it in the comments for this site. I’ll check out your tweets and may add you to my list of “friends.” (Whoo-hoo!)

Would also be interested in reading your impressions of the Twitter service or competing services. Use the Comments link.

My eBay Auctions

I’m cleaning house.

Airport Extreme Base StationIf anyone is interested in seeing what old stuff I’m clearing out of my office these days, please check out my current eBay auctions. It’s mostly Mac stuff right now, but that’s likely to change as I continue putting stuff online.

The big bargain right now (April 22, 2007): An AirPort Extreme Base Station with built-in modem, still in its original sealed box.