Tag Archives: Windows

The MacBook Pro (or PC laptop) that I would bring to college

Starbuck falling asleep while studying. The laptop and tablet combo is a good one for college.

Starbuck falling asleep while studying. The laptop and tablet combo is a good one for college.

The topic of what computer to take to college comes up often here. Jeremy and I may not fully agree on this (he’d say MacBook Air), but here is my advice.

I’m specifically highlighting which Mac I would recommend to take to college (with some equivalent PC options as well), because this is a recent question we were asked. I also use a MacBook Pro for graduate school and had to make this very decision two years ago.

Price certainly matters. Form a budget. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need this computer to work well for at least four years, and I know many people who bought cheaper computers and had to replace them before college was over.

A good computer could even last you through graduate school.

Computers have gotten a lot cheaper over time, and there may be some temptation to get a random laptop for $450, but that could be a big mistake. I spent about $3,000 on computer for college, and that wasn’t abnormal at the time.

One of the big reasons that computers have gotten cheaper since I was in undergrad is that quality has dropped a lot. It was much more difficult to get a really cheap computer that was filled with poor compromises.

I’m not suggesting you need to spend $3,000 on a computer, but I’d hesitate to go cheap with this decision. It’s important.

Displays matter. Go HiDPI (Retina)

If you’re going to be doing a lot of reading or writing — and this is a lot of college students — I’d really only look at laptops with HiDPI displays. The most famous is the Macbook Pro with Retina Display, but there are several PC options as well. We explain how HiDPI displays can reduce eyestrain and make reading easier.

HiDPI stands for high dots per inch. It means more pixels and smaller pixels. It means fonts so clear that you can no longer see the pixels (your eyes will thank you for this). It means images that look like high-quality prints. It’s kind of the difference between an HD and non-HD television.

HiDPI is the future of computer displays, and it is already the present on smartphones and tablets. There is no reason not to get on this bandwagon now, and you’ll thank yourself for doing so in a few years.

I get many of my textbooks as Kindle ebooks. This is usually cheaper and much lighter and space conscious. I can often read these books on my iPad and iPhone too, making it easy to sneak in a few minutes of reading here or there. But sometimes I don’t want to carry an iPad or Kindle with me.

My MacBook Pro hooked up to my external monitor. It's a great way to do heavy-duty work.

My MacBook Pro hooked up to my external monitor. It’s a great way to do heavy-duty work.

There is also a Kindle Web app. Normally, I wouldn’t want to try to read a book on a low-resolution computer monitor, but now that I have a HiDPI display, I can also use my laptop for book reading.

Trust me, this makes a huge difference. I had a bad case of eye strain during college, largely from working on the student newspaper, and HiDPI displays are a way I manage my eyestrain today. My computer, smartphone and tablet are all HiDPI, and I’ll never buy a non-HiDPI display again.

This is why I do not recommend the MacBook Air, despite it otherwise being perhaps the best general college laptop around. Text isn’t as sharp on the display, and it will fatigue your eyes faster. The 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina is 3.46 pounds, and while it is not MacBook Air light, it is plenty light enough to carry around campus. I have the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and with the right bag, its 4.46 pounds doesn’t bother me.

The MacBook Air may go Retina as early as this year, and as soon as that happens, many of you may prefer the MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine, but the MacBook Air should appeal to more college students with its lighter weight and lower price. The lack of a HiDPI display, however, is not worth it to me, unless you are in a major that doesn’t require a lot of reading and writing. Or if you’re in a major that doesn’t require a lot of computer use

There is no such thing as too much ram

I would go with the maximum amount of ram you can afford. I’d also go with additional ram over a faster CPU any day of the week. This may not matter now, but it may come in handy 4-6 years from now. Newer applications and operating systems tend to use more memory over time, and this will leave you better prepared for tomorrow’s applications.

I believe in using computers for years and years and running them into the ground. I had an eight-year-old PowerMac as my daily machine for awhile. I plan on using this MacBook Pro for many years.

A lack of ram will hurt your ability to use a machine for a long time. A hundred dollars or so now could mean several years of additional life out of your machine later.

As of March 2014, I’d recommend going with at least 8 GB of ram. You probably won’t notice the effects of anything above that, but going with more ram will provide greater future proofing, which may come in handy post graduation when you can’t afford a new computer.

SSD all the way

I never want to own a computer again with a traditional spinning hard drive. Everything is faster with a solid state drive (SSD). Applications spring to life in an instance. You can go through hundreds of photos without hiccups.

SSDs also use less energy, allowing for longer battery life. You don’t want to rely on bringing a power cord to class because many classrooms don’t have power outlets. It’s usually my classmates with traditional hard drives that are crowding around the power outlets during class.

SSDs are also more durable, especially to drops. College students drop stuff. An SSD hard drive could save your data and your grades.

All MacBook Pros with Retina displays and MacBook Airs come with SSDs standard. But if you’re going to get a PC laptop, get an SSD. This is what my Windows 8 laptop has, and you’d be shocked at how fast it boots up and wakes from sleep. Spinning hard disks are for big storage needs, and you can always get an external hard drive if you need more storage.

With external hard drives with 2 TB of storage less than $100 now, don’t worry about internal storage. Speed, durability and reliability are more important for your internal hard drive.

Consider an external monitor

I’m writing this post with two monitors right now. I have my text editing window on my MacBook Pro, and I have websites and resources that I’m looking up on my 22-inch external monitor. Having two monitors makes you more productive and cuts down on errors.

Here is a very good 22-inch LED monitor for $150. The other advantage of an external monitor is that it allows you to go with a smaller laptop, because if you ever need more screen real estate you can just plug in your external monitor.

Most college students would be best served with a 13.3-inch laptop such as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I think this size is the best balance between power and portability.

Now, I do have the larger 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (partly because there was no 13-inch version at the time), and there are advantages. The 15-inch version is quad-core and can support a dedicated GPU. If you don’t know what this means, you probably don’t need them.

Students doing video editing, photography, 3D animation, computer science (for compiled languages, not Web development), graphic design and perhaps a few other areas would benefit from the increased power. But for writing papers and doing research  — what the vast majority of college work is for most students — a 13-inch laptop is fine. And frankly, you can do all of those things I mentioned above on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, just a little slower.

It is very hard to find a HiDPI external monitor, however. This issue will be sorted out in a few years, but right now your best option is to get a 22-inch 1080p monitor. It’s not HiDPI, but it will be fine for a secondary monitor as long as you do most of your work on your HiDPI laptop monitor.

Look at all of your computing and technology needs together

Form am overall budget to spend on computing and technology. If you want to do photo journalism, for instance, budgeting for a decent digital camera would be wise. Many of you like using an iPad or Kindle for textbook reading. Budget for that as well.

ipad

Reading for class on my iPad.

You may get more enjoyment and productivity out of going with a cheaper laptop plus a tablet than you would out of a more expensive laptop. I would encourage you to think of your technology needs together and form an overall budget.

I do a lot of my reading for school on my iPad and Kindle, both of which I received before graduate school, but if I had nothing right now, I would budget for a tablet and a laptop. This would require me to make sure my laptop didn’t eat up my entire budget.

Unless a paper book is a lot better than the ebook (this does happen with more graphical textbooks), I go with the ebook.

Backup, backup, backup

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to backup your data. There is no excuse for a college student today to lose data. If you do, it’s because you didn’t prepare ahead of time.

The most important kind of backup that anyone can have is remote. Local backup is an added layer of protection that I’d recommend, but remote backup handled by a company who specializes in data integrity is a must.

I would either go with Backblaze, Crashplan or another similar backup-everything-for-a-fixed-cost-every-month service or with Dropbox, if you need syncing and the ability to pull up files for class. You can even go with a combination of the two services by utilizing the free Dropbox account for storing smaller amounts of data. Several of my classes have used shared Dropbox folders, and it is a great tool even if you don’t use it for backups.

Backblaze and Crashplan are dead simple to operate. They backup everything on your computer in real time. They are always running and always backing up your data. If you have an Internet connection, your data will be backed up. Both are around $50 a year or so.

If you go with a Mac, I’d also suggest using Time Machine. A simple USB 3.0 hard drive will do just fine, and it will provide fast, local backups for under $100. The benefit of a local backup is that they are much faster for retrieving lost data. It can take a considerable amount of time, sometimes days, to get all of your data back from a cloud backup service.

Time Machine also does versioning. Sometimes you just want to get back a file you deleted, and Time Machine will provide daily backups for at least the last month. You’ll want your Time Machine hard drive to be at least twice as big as your internal laptop hard drive so that it can handle doing many versions.

Don’t forget your academic discount!

You don’t need to go through your college or its technology center to get an academic discount. Most major computer makers offer educational discounts through their online stores.

Don’t buy a random laptop; a computer is more than just specs

The quality of a laptop goes far beyond specs. You can have two laptops with identical specs, and one will be great and the other will cause you to pull your hair out. In particular, there is huge variance in the quality of keyboards and trackpads.

If you want to get a laptop that I don’t specifically recommend here, at least read reviews elsewhere to get a good idea of what you’re getting into. Using a computer in store is a good option too. I’ve used countless laptops with virtually unusable trackpads. Do you really want to carry a portable mouse with you everywhere (and be almost unable to use your computer when you don’t have it)?

There are some really bad keyboards out there, especially on thinner laptops. Some are very hard to type accurately on.

Every Apple laptop has an incredible trackpad. I’ve never seen a PC laptop with a trackpad that is anywhere near this quality, and I never feel like the trackpad doesn’t meet my needs.

Macs have very good keyboards too. I’d say the keyboards on Lenovo ThinkPads are the best, and they generally have good trackpads too. My No. 1 PC recommendation is usually to check out a ThinkPad first.

I have a Toshiba Windows 8.1 laptop, and it is virtually unusable without an external keyboard and mouse. Yes, it is light, relatively fast and has an SSD and all the modern specs, but its keyboard and trackpad is atrocious. It’s hard to believe that this was allowed to be shipped, and this experience is not that uncommon for PC laptops.

A good keyboard and trackpad is worth hundreds of dollars.

My MacBook recommendations

Every computer listed below has distinct strengths and weaknesses. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is the most balanced, but you need to ask yourself what your needs are. I felt having a lot of CPU and GPU power was important for the kind of work I do, and that’s why I went with the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina for most college students

  • 8 GB of ram and a 256 GB SSD are fine for most students. I wouldn’t be opposed to upgrading the ram to 16 GB and the SSD to 512 GB.

15-inch MacBook Pro for power user college students

  • This is a little more confusing. There are two distinct versions here. Most just have integrated graphics, but one model has dedicated graphics. This makes a big difference in price. If you need a dedicated graphics card, this model has a loaded CPU, GPU, lots of ram and a big SSD. It should last you many years. It’s the model I have, and I highly recommend it.
  • If you’re not going to get the version with a dedicated graphics chip, the main reason to get it is for the bigger screen. You have to ask yourself if a bigger screen is worth $500. I’d say that for most of you, the 13-inch version with an external monitor is the better option.

11-inch MacBook Air

  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Air are similar in size. I think most students would be better off just going with the Pro, unless money was a big issue. In that case, the MacBook Air is a solid option.
  • The one thing a MacBook Pro can’t compete on is really small size. If you want a really portable laptop, the 11-inch MacBook Air is compelling. It still has a full size keyboard and a great trackpad. You can still hook it up to a big external monitor and all of that. But it is really small and light. You can basically take it anywhere. If you envision yourself always with your laptop, typing away in all sorts of nooks and crannies, this might be a compelling option.
  • This laptop will be a writer’s dream when its a Retina display.

My graduate school computer setup

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

  • 8 GB of ram
  • Dedicated graphics chip
  • External 22-inch monitor
  • External keyboard and mouse for heavy duty work at my desk
  • OmniOutliner for note taking in class
  • Ulysses for writing reports
  • Microsoft Word for formatting written assignments
  • Coda and Sublime Text 2 for writing code
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and Pixelmator for graphic design

iPad with 32 GB of storage

  • This is the main way I read textbooks and PDFs (we read a lot of journal articles).
  • Kindle textbooks work well and sync back to Kindle, phone and Web.
  • It syncs to OmniOutliner, allowing me to read and edit notes that I take in class.
  • I have the 9.7-inch version, and I think it works better for many textbooks than smaller tablets, but if you mostly read novels or text-based books, the iPad Mini and similar smaller tablets may be a better option.
  • I have the wifi-only version, and most college campuses are covered with wifi. I wouldn’t worry about getting a version with a data plan.

iPhone 5 with 32 GB of storage

  • I mostly just use this for email and checking in on our online learning system.
  • I also read Kindle books on this. If you’re going to read Kindle books for class, I’d recommend getting a smartphone that has the Kindle app. It’s more useful than you’d think.

Kindle

  • I’m talking about the basic black and white E-ink Kindle here. It has great battery life, is durable with a cover on it and is very, very easy on the eyes.
  • This is how I read textbooks right before bed so that the blue light from my iPad doesn’t keep me up late. It is not recommended that you use an iPad right before bed. The same goes for any laptop not running software such as Flux. Flux is a free utility that I recommend every computer user run (when not doing color sensitive work). You will sleep better with this installed.
  • I have the version “with special offers.” It saves money, and it doesn’t impact the user experience.

Recommended PC laptops

ThinkPad T540p with solid state drive

  • This is a 15-inch laptop with a HiDPI display.
  • It also has an optional dedicated graphics chip for more graphics-intensive work. This is the closet thing you’ll get to a 15-inch MacBook Pro from a PC.
  • It’s heavier than I’d like at almost a full pound more than 15-inch MacBook Pro.

ThinkPad X1

  • This is the closet thing to a PC MacBook Air. It’s very well made, and it weighs less than 3 pounds.
  • A HiDPI display is optional for $150. I think it’s money well spent. But, again, if you don’t think you need a HiDPI display, you can forgo it and this is still a great laptop.

Acer Aspire S7-392-6807

  • Considered one of the best Ultrabooks around.
  • Very nice design.
  • Is not a HiDPI display, but it is 1080p. It’s similar to a MacBook Air.

Thinkpad T440 with solid state drive

  • It doesn’t have a HiDPI display, but if you feel you don’t need one, this is a very good, reasonably priced Windows laptop. Great keyboard too.

Leave a comment below if you have questions about what you or your child should bring to college. We’ll do our best to give you answers based on your needs.

For more on technology in the classroom and thoughts on what to bring to college, check out Episode 101: Technology in the classroom.

Microsoft should split Windows into two separate OSes

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This is Windows 8′s Metro mode. It literally doesn’t have windows anymore.

Microsoft is trying to walk back some of the polarizing aspects of Windows 8 with updates to the OS, but the real issue is the fundamental mistake of trying to make one OS that can run on traditional desktops and laptops, while also running on tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft needs to split Windows into two separate OSes. Windows 9 should look and feel like Windows 7 with new features and refinements. Forget Windows 8 and 8.1 entirely.

The Metro mode (the entire look on Windows smartphones) should be spun off into its own OS without the Windows name. It doesn’t have to be called Metro, but Microsoft needs to come up with a fresh name for its mobile OS.

I use Windows 8 every day at work. It’s not that bad as some would have you believe, but I like it less than Windows 7. Shouldn’t every release be more enjoyable and better? I consider Windows 7 to be the best version of Windows ever. It has a pretty clean windowing UI, it’s stable and secure and generally just works.

Windows 7 is an OS that really appeals to Microsoft’s core audience. Why mess with it?

I have my Windows 8 machine set to boot straight to desktop mode, and I have the start menu back; so it’s pretty similar to using Windows 7. But every now and then you accidentally open up an app or file in Metro mode, and it’s a really disorienting experience when one of my monitors is in metro mode and the other is in desktop mode. It really is one of the worst and most inexcusable computing experiences you can have today.

The core issue of Windows 8 is that it tries to merge two pretty good UI concepts together, and in the process makes both worse. I like Metro as a tablet and phone UI. I like the Windows 7 UI for desktop computing. It’s when you have to use Metro on a desktop or Windows 7 windowing on a tablet that it all goes to hell.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

Microsoft has a new CEO. He doesn’t have to save face like Steve Ballmer might have tried to. He can simply say that Windows 8 was a mistake , and we’re going in a different direction.

The time is now to end this failed experiment to create one OS to rule them all.  Make Windows 9 the best traditional Windows it can be. Aim it at businesses and people who want to use the same OS they use at work at home. Focus on networking and cloud support (integrate OneDrive even further into the OS as a major selling point), improving multithreaded support (make it easier for developers to harness 4-12 and more core computers) and improving the file system.

The UI concepts of Windows 7 are pretty good. You can iterate on the UI and add new features like Apple does with OS X, but there is no reason to get away from windowing for desktop computing. It’s a conceptual model that works well, particularly for power users and work that benefits from multiple-monitors and multitasking.

Microsoft should then spin off Metro into its own OS without the Windows name, while still using the Windows kernel. This is what Apple does with iOS, and it works very well. Apple executives have recently come out and said that merging iOS and OS X into one OS would be a waste of time.

The needs of a user vary drastically by context. When someone is trying to edit two spreadsheets side by side his needs are very different then when they are trying to get directions while walking around a city. There is no reason to believe that tablets will replace laptops, so why not an OS that assumes that?

I use OS X at home, and think Mavericks is what Microsoft should be aiming for, not Windows 8. Mavericks is the best desktop OS I’ve ever used, and, while I really like iOS, I wouldn’t want to use iOS on my desktop computer.

Apple has shown Microsoft the path forward. Make the best desktop OS with windows you can. Make the best mobile OS without windows you can.

It’s that simple.

Episode 97: Mac OS El Camino (30 years of the Macintosh)

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We discuss 30 years of the Macintosh and what the Macintosh has meant to computing and  to us.

We also discuss if iOS and OS X will eventually become one OS. The Mac is stronger than ever today, and you can see a lot of the original Macintosh in today’s Macs. But will the 50th-year celebration still show that same linage?

Will the Mac be around in 20 years? Would we be where we are today if Apple had gone under in the 90s?

We also start off the show with a discussion about Google Glass and sex.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

 

Episode 69: A home with Facebook on your phone?

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We discuss Facebook Home and who would want Facebook all over their smartphone.

We think there is a market for Facebook Home, but a lot of people won’t like it. It’s pretty though.

Jeremy then asks, “How many more versions of Windows will we see?” A lot of change is hitting the PC industry.

Listen to this week’s show:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

 

iTunes should be split into 3-4 smaller, more focused apps

Should iTunes be split into smaller, discrete applications that focus on specific tasks? iTunes being bloated and slow is not a new meme, but there has been a lot of discussion recently about breaking iTunes up into separate applications for different tasks.

It’s important to note that iTunes began just as a music jukebox app. All it did was play music files, and it was very good at that. It was also a very good companion to early iPods, but as iTunes aged and took on more tasks, it became a poor application for most uses.

By making iTunes into several small apps, Apple could deliver more features and granularity without overloading users.  Imagine iTunes with more features and granularity. That sounds like a terrible proposition.

Doesn’t iTunes already do too much?

iTunes has the paradoxical distinction of both doing too much and too little. It does too much because it handles too many discrete function. But it also does too little because it often doesn’t delve that deeply into what each discrete function can too. iTunes is a music jukebox application that also plays movies; iTunes is also movie management software that has almost no movie management controls.

iTunes is a bloated piece of software that does a lot (Apple bills it as an application that has “Everything in one place,” which is sadly too accurate). Adding more features to it — even features that make a lot of sense — comes with the cost of making the application needlessly more complex and slow. As long as iTunes is one giant application — almost an operating system for digital media — Apple will hesitate in adding too many features for a specific area of the application.

Take the iTunes Store; it exists as one section of a big application. Giving it more features and granularity would only increase the feeling that iTunes is overloaded (and would make the application even slower to load). But, there are a lot of features missing from the store that would make it easier to shop and find interesting content.

There is no way to search for movies by rating — either customer ratings or Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I’d love to have the ability to find out the highest rated movies by genre, decade and overall. Or how about seeing reviewers and users lists of which movies to check out? But if that functionality was added in today, it would make iTunes seem even more complex.

Without features like this, it’s difficult to discover great movies. The only thing that the iTunes Store is good at is showing what is popular right now. It’s not good at showing me historically popular movies or highly rated movies (or music or TV shows).

This is what happens when one app tries to do the job of three-to-four applications. What does purchasing movies have anything to do with making music playlists? What do music playlists have to do with syncing content between my Mac and my iPad?

iTunes tries to do too many things. When I plug in my iPhone to sync files, it launches iTunes, which then triggers automatic downloads of video files that I may have available for download. When I’m trying to sync my device, I don’t need video files from TV shows that I purchased on my Apple TV to automatically start downloading.

Because iTunes does so many things, it feels slow. It takes several seconds for the app to launch and for me to finally be able to do something. If I just want to listen to music, why am I being greeted with the iTunes store or my movie collection?

Whenever I open iTunes it opens to the last section of the application that I had open. Considering that iTunes does so many different things, this can greatly impede my ability to do what I want to do. If the last thing I had open for the iTunes Store, the application has to load, than the store and then I can finally do what I want to do in the application. If all I want to do is listen to music, having the iTunes store load first makes no sense. But when you have an application that does so much, how do you even decide what should be the first thing that people see when they start the program up? If an application ever has a big identity crisis where it can’t decide what makes the most sense to start with each and every time, that application has become too bloated and is trying to do too many things.

An application like that lacks focus.

When I open up Sparrow, I’m shown my inbox. When I open up Twitter for OS X, I’m shown my Twitter feed. With Safari, I get my homepage. With iTunes, I get whatever I had open the last time I closed the app.

There are a bunch of ways that it could be broken into separate, discrete apps. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to how to do it, but the right answer is surely to separate iTunes into distinct apps.

Syncing should have always been a separate app for iOS devices. iTunes not only handles syncing of my music files but it also handles syncing of movies, TV shows, applications, photos, contacts, preferences, etc. This makes no sense. Apple is moving away from iTunes as a syncing platform towards iCloud, and eventually anything but iCloud syncing could be eliminated, but that won’t happen for years.

iCloud is not, nor is much of the world’s Internet infrastructure, in the right place to only allow cloud-based syncing and backups. Thus, the syncing portion of iTunes should be an entirely separate application. Something lightweight, easy to use and with plenty of granularity.

And something that I only see and load when I’m trying to sync.

After separating syncing into a new app, there are several routes to go. Apple could simply break up the rest of iTunes into two applications: One for playing media files and one for purchasing media files. All of the sudden the store area of the app would be gone from iTunes (iTunes Store, iTunes Match and Ping), as well as Genius and the Devices section. This has significantly pared down the left-hand navigation column, while also removing a lot of code and bloat from the application.

Where Ping, iTunes’s built in social network, fits in is anyone’s guess. It speaks to how hopelessly lost iTunes is as an application that it also comes with a social network. You can’t search for movies in the iTunes Store by best rated, but you can share the latest song you purchased in a ghost town of a social network.

The other major option would be to split iTunes up into separate audio and video applications. iTunes is a pretty good music player. Yes, it is missing some functions that more dedicated music playing applications have, but it’s pretty good for playing music and this is where iTunes is at its best. iTunes, however, does the bare minimum for storing and playing video files.

iTunes doesn’t have a good way for people to store large video collections in different ways. Nor does iTunes really work for any video management and playback for files not purchased in the iTunes store (imagine if iTunes only handled audio files that were purchased through the iTunes Store). iTunes functions as the most bare minimum video storage software that you can think of, but there is no reason that it isn’t more full featured like the music portion of iTunes.

For instance, why doesn’t iTunes show all of the TV shows and movies that I have available to stream through iCloud? With movies and TV shows in the cloud, the idea of locally storing video files on my Mac is going away. Rather, I’d like to have a good interface to see all the movies that I have purchased and am storing in the cloud.

Because I’m much more apt to buy movies and TV shows now that I don’t have to handle local storage, I could really use a way to categorize my video content and make playlists. One day when I have a 100 or so movies from iTunes in the cloud, I’d greatly appreciate the ability to sort and categorize movies the way that makes sense to me.

From this audio/video split two different directions can be taken: the store functions can be kept on each app or the store function could be its own app. The biggest question is how much does being able to purchase music from the same app as you listen to it help consumers buy and enjoy music?

From a usability perspective, it’s very convenient to purchase music from the same app that you listen to it in. The iOS App store, however, seems to suggest that people understand the difference between an app for buying something and an app (or OS) for using something. Users are downloading a lot more apps than songs these days.

Seeing how successful downloading and running apps on the iPhone and iPad are makes me realize that average users clearly understand how to use two separate apps that work together. Because of this, I’d recommend that the iTunes Store become its own application, no matter how the rest of iTunes is split up.

This leaves us with two good options for splitting up iTunes:

  • iTunes (for music and video management and playback), iTunes Store and iOS Sync application.
  • iTunes (for music playback and management only. Back to its roots), iTunes Store, iOS Sync and a much more robust video application (for file management and playback).

Both of these options are much stronger than what we have today. These apps would be small, lean apps that could support additional features that iTunes couldn’t dream of adding it its bloated state. This is the kind of win-win that a company that focuses on usability and focus should do.

These apps could finally have UIs that make sense for each distinct function that iTunes tries to do. Why exactly would you use the same general UI concepts for music management software as you would for a store to purchase movies?

iOS and the Mac App store have proven that people enjoy using smaller discrete apps (I prefer using Instapaper to Safari’s built in Reading List because I get a lot more features with Instapaper without adding bloat and complexity to Safari itself). Perhaps the reason that Apple made iTunes do so many things was that in the past the average computer user didn’t buy and install a lot of new applications. Before the iOS App Store and the Mac App Store, it was a hassle for a non-geek to get new software.

Now it’s easier for me to purchase a new application on my Mac than it is for me to make coffee in the morning. I’m talking about real software from big-name companies and great upstarts. And keeping all of my applications up to date? Dead simple.

Apple itself has shown that users will embrace smaller, more focused applications. It’s time for Apple to focus iTunes.

Twitter political protests in Russia being drowned out by spam

Botnets, networks of compromised zombie computers, can be put to use to take down websites, send junk mail, break into networks and more. Now a botnet is believed to be used to drown out the political protest in Russia. Ten pro government messages are showing up in the #triumphalnaya hashtag every second, making it very hard for protest tweets to be seen:

Maxim Goncharov, a senior researcher at security firm Trend Micro, said the attack on Twitter had all the hallmarks of being co-ordinated by a botnet.

This is a network of PCs, usually running Windows, that have been infected by a virus putting them under the control of a cyber criminal.

Mr Goncharov said the machines, or bots, in this network had targeted chatter about the protests in Moscow’s Triumphal Square.

The protests followed accusations about irregularities during Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Results showed a significant dip in support for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

Some of the chatter on Twitter was organised around the topic name, or hashtag, of #triumphalnaya

Twitter is becoming a place for both political protest and and for democracy to be silenced. Twitter, the company, needs to do a better job of detecting and deleting spam accounts. This is democracy at stake, and Twitter is becoming an important communication tool in political protests. It shouldn’t be so easy for bots and spammers to take hold on Twitter.

Yes, by not updating your computer and using an insecure operating system, you can unknowingly help criminals send junk mail, take down websites, break into networks and silence political protest. Maybe it would be better if the average person used a computer that was more like an appliance — like, say, an iPad.

Source BBC.