Magnificent Obsessions

Magnificent Obsessions for the Everyday Consumer.

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Microsoft to Close Down Encarta

March 30th, 2009 · No Comments · Internet & the Web

Microsoft has announced that it will be closing its Encarta encyclopedia service, effective October 31, 2009.

Over the years, Encarta evolved from a product on CDs, to an online Encyclopedia.

For me personally, the move is bittersweet.  I grew up with the hard-cover edition of Collier’s Encyclopedia (along with the annual “Yearbook” editions).  My parents bought it with the thought that I’d use it in my schoolwork – and they were right – I referred to it often in composing my school reports and projects.  The Collier’s books still proudly sit in my parent’s bookshelf, albeit a bit dusty and worn over the years.

You see, Microsoft bough the rights to Collier’s electronic version in 1998, and used the content for its Encarta product.  Since that time the hard cover editions ended.  So while I was saddened to see the hard copy editions go away, and though I’ve had issues with other Microsoft products, I was still heartened by the fact that the knowledge and information from Collier’s would live on, in a new multimedia form.  Progressing with the times, after all.

From Microsoft’s Encarta website:

Why are these Encarta Web sites and software products being discontinued?

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft’s goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today’s consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business.

In other words, most people today are getting their information from Wikipedia.  As much as I like, respect, and use Wikipedia, I always use it with the knowledge that this is an online “encyclopedia” created and updated by millions of users, many of them who may have singular, revisionist, commercial, or otherwise unworthy agendas.

Now don’t get me wrong……..Collier’s wasn’t a bulletproof source of information either.  But the difference was that it simply had a higher “trust” factor.  You knew that an editorial team was trying to ensure that the facts were correct, and presented in a balanced and informative manner.  You can never achieve that level of “trust” in an online open source edition with so many contributors.

And so it goes.  Farewell Encarta.  Farewell Collier’s.

Another institution goes forth into the night……………………

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Next Generation Netbooks and Windows 7

November 9th, 2008 · No Comments · Computers

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably noticed an explosion of “netbooks” in the notebook computing space.  These are small form-factor notebook computers that are significantly smaller than traditional laptops, with a footprint the size of a typical hardcover book, but much thinner.

The beauty of these is that they can easily be tossed into a medium sized purse or briefcase.  Today’s models mostly run on Intel’s Atom processor (about 1 ghz), along with Windows XP.

Microsoft has announced that they are developing a compact version of Windows 7, optimized for new generation netbook models.  Windows 7 is due in the Fall of 2009.

Microsoft anticipates that many of the next generation netbooks will feature dual core Atom processors, 1gb or more of RAM, and larger hard drives (160gb and higher).

Today’s netbooks running Windows XP are already pretty decent performers for low level application use (surfing the web, checking e-mail, minor graphics work, etc.).  The initial rumblings seem to indicate that future models will be well worth waiting for as well.

Keep your eyes on this space in late 2009.

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iPhone Features I’d Like to See – Part 3

March 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Phones

Flash!

Well, Adobe (Macromedia) Flash to be exact.

Flash is ubiquitous on the web, and if Apple REALLY wants to surf the REAL web, then Flash needs to be available.

Adobe certainly supports it’s use on the iPhone.

What about you, Apple?

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iPhone Features I’d Like to See – Part 2

March 24th, 2008 · No Comments · Phones

Continuing on with the features I’d like to see on the iPhone.

3G network.

Let’s face it, using AT&T’s Edge network to surf the web just sucks. Not unlike going to the bad old days of the modem (vs. today’s broadband). AT&T already offers 3G access, so availability is not an issue.

This gets a little tricky, though. Current 3G chips suck a lot of power – the iPhone’s battery life is already a weak point. Burdening it with 3G would make battery life completely unacceptable.

The good news is that new 3G chips are much less power hungry – in addition, one can assume that battery technology and battery life will improve over time.

Rumors also seem to indicate that a 3G-ready iPhone will come sometime this year.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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iPhone Features I’d Like to See – Part 1

March 23rd, 2008 · No Comments · Phones

Having owned and used my iPhone for over 6 months now, I do have some features I’d like to see on future versions.

- Longer Battery Life
- Replaceable Battery

There, was that so hard?

My previous phone was a Samsung clamshell model, and it could go several days before needing a recharge.  I can go 3-4 days with the iPhone, but ONLY if I don’t use it.  If I make more than a few phone calls and use some of the other features, then I need to charge this puppy every day.

If viewing videos, whether they be movies, tv shows, or video podcasts, forget it – the iPhone gets its batteries sucked down in a few hours.

Now I understand partly why 3G was not included in this phone…….3G, with current chipset technologies, is a powerhog.

Now, this could all be easily solved, had Apple offered removable batteries!  Why, oh why, aren’t these available?  Is Apple really that fearful of losing control of batteries to 3rd party vendors?  Or would adding removable batteries add more width and heft to the slim phone?

Whatever the case, it’s a hassle for owners to have to send the phone in to Apple or drop them off at the Apple Store and wait for a replacement………..during which time you’re without a phone!  It’s also got to be a monumental hassle for Apple as well, to have to deal with battery replacement issues……..shouldn’t your techs be more focused on more serious customer issues?

Ok, even with these issues, I still love my iPhone.  Hopefully version 2.0 will address the battery issues.

Other issues?  More of those in future posts…………..

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iPhone Edge and 3G

March 17th, 2008 · No Comments · Phones

Well, I’ve been a happy owner of the iPhone for about 6 months now.

When I first got the phone, I was worried that web surfing under the Edge Network would be horrible. Well, yes. The Edge is slow, and if I were using the iPhone as a web-surfing appliance then I’d be very disappointed. I mainly use web-surfing as a last resort – for example, when I’m in a store and trying to comparison shop prices of a certain product.

Then again, if I’m in an office environment, or a multitude of Coffee Shops, then odds are high that I can get speedy Wi-Fi reception, and web surfing speed wouldn’t be an issue.

Would I like to surf with the speedier 3G network when I can’t get wi-fi? Sure.

But I’d much rather have other features FIRST, over 3G………and we’ll talk about those in another post.

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iPhone Launch Mania or Hangover?

June 30th, 2007 · No Comments · Phones

As much as I’d like to own the new iPhone, I managed to fight off the urge to stand in an excruciating line for hours or days on end.

It was interesting that review units of the iPhone were only given to 4 members of the media.  I read all 4 reviews, from the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, and the Wall St. Journal.  All the reviews were generally positive.

However the most entertaining review came in video form, from David Pogue of the New York Times.  I found it funny and pretty insightful – given the mountains of hype surrounding this entire launch, the review was oddly on target.

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Video Guide Tour of Apple, Plus YouTube Videos on iPhone

June 23rd, 2007 · No Comments · Phones

The iPhone dance at Apple just keeps growing!

Take a look at this 20-minute guided tour of the iPhone that Apple is teasing us with……..

Apple also announced a deal that will allow YouTube videos to easily play on the iPhone.  Not too surprising, as Google now owns YouTube, and Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt sits on the board of Apple.

Needless to say, there are a lot of smart moves going on here……lets just hope that the hardware lives up to the hype.  I’ll be watching for battery life, typing ease, speed of the AT&T Internet connection, and of course transition time while moving from mode to mode within the iPhone itself.

Watching and waiting.

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Apple’s Safari Browser Now Available for PCs

June 11th, 2007 · No Comments · Computers

How interesting.  Today Apple announced that the Safari Web Browser (previously only available on the Macintosh) would be made available for the PC.  No charge.

Apple claims that the Safari browser is twice as fast as other browsers.  Currently, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominates the browser scene with a 78% share, with Mozilla’s Firefox coming in second at about 15%.

What makes this particularly interesting is that Apple’s upcoming iPhone (released June 29) features the Safari browser.  This has been an ongoing trend at Apple, making its services and software available for PC users, beginning with the iPod and iTunes music store.

A cunning strategic move to attract users to the Macintosh?  Only time will tell.

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Apple releases iPhone Commercials

June 6th, 2007 · No Comments · Fashion, Phones

Apple has posted its ongoing list of iPhone commercials on their website.

Boy, this just adds to the feeding frenzy, doesn’t it?

Obsessions are magnificent things, aren’t they?

I’m trying to be strong……hoping that the bigger memory and 3G versions come sooner, rather than later.  But I’m growing weak…..

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