TicoByte for March, 2012

Loyal PC Club of Costa Rica members,

The next club meeting will be held this coming Saturday, March 17th, at the Pan American School in Belen at 9 AM. We will have coffee and snacks from 8:30 for those who like to come early and chat.

Here are some items of interest:

Item 1.  Big surprise: there’s controversy about the new Windows logo.

The announcement of a new logo for Windows 8 has sparked praise and criticism from the public. Microsoft follower Debra Littlejohn Shinder has something to say about it. Here’s a parade of Windows logos.

Item 2.  Are you interested in trying out Windows 8?

Joanna Stern, of ABC News, has a good review of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview being offered now. Reuters has a good one, too. So does the New York Times. Here is a stinging review from a serious detractor. Be aware that you can’t uninstall it. You will have to reinstall your old system from scratch. Also, it’s not a full system, yet, and you can’t use it past the release of the real version (October?) without buying it. You can get it here. If you have questions, try the Windows 8 FAQ. This is a whole different world and we’ll have to get used to it eventually. It’s best, if you have a spare computer, to use it for the preview. Click here to see 44 screen shots. Check out the Windows 8 Cheat Sheet for more info.

Item 3.  Man claims he entered the USA with an iPad passport.

CNET reports that a Canadian crossed from Quebec into the US last Christmas using a picture of his passport scanned into his iPad. I wouldn’t try this, as US Customs has questioned the story. I just wonder if there’s a visa stamp on the glass of the man’s iPad now.

Item 4.  Avast 2012 is out with some cool new features.

CNET News reviews the latest version of Avast, a club-recommended antivirus program. It includes a new hybrid release technology, file reputation services, support for Safari, and some new paid features.

Item 5.  Mozilla is pulling support for Firefox 3.6 next month.

No, the newer versions are still supported; don’t panic. Check out the details in this ZDnet article. Providers can support older releases for only so long and then they have to pull the plug. 3.6 is still popular, so check your version number if you’re a Firefox fan. Click here for views of a new Firefox design that’s in the works, codename Australis.

Item 6.  Would you like some pretty wallpaper?

Some of the collections are: Botanical Garden, National Parks, Autumn, Northern Lights, Underwater Scenes, Mountains, Miscellaneous, Extreme Weather, Early Computers, Flying Machines, Pixar Cartoons, John Glenn, Views of Earth, Deep Space, NASA Images, More Earth from Space, World of Warcraft, Corn Mazes, 3D Drawings, & Sexy Geeks.

Item 7.  Apple releases a new iPad

Jason Hiner has a report on the new iPad, which Apple is naming simply the new iPad (not iPad3). The article outlines the new features that come with the third-generation iPad which sells for $500. Another review, by Selena Fry, lists several other articles on the new product.

Item 8.  Do you pay US Income Tax using a paid tax-return preparer?

If so, check out the rule changes for 2012 that will effect you. There are four major changes in who can prepare your return for you. Even if you prepare your own return, there are three changes in the mileage allowances and self-employment health insurance deduction.

Item 9.  Too much money burning a hole in your pocket?

Here is a group of Intriguing Products you might check out. A pocket USB terrabyte drive; a waterproof tablet; a large, flat touchscreen monitor; a dog-collar that warns you of boundary crossings, and door locks controlled from your phone are just a few of the items offerred.

Item 10.  Did you know you can copy things with [Ctrl-drag] in Word?

Susan Harkins points out how to drag copies rather than copy & paste them in Microsoft Word. It’s one of those simple things that can save you a lot of time. Try it out.

Item 11.  Do you ever have multiple copies of the same file?

Of course you do. Everyone does. Justin James lists Five Tools for Getting Rid of Duplicate Files. Some are freeware and one even checks for duplicate graphics files. Most of these even find duplicates with different filenames.

Item 12.  Looking for something to read?

Wally Bahny offers some Geeky Reads for This Winter. I just finished the first one on the list. These are books for fun; they’re not technical manuals.

Item 13.  Trivia question: Prior to Wikipedia, what work held an almost 600-year-long record for the longest encyclopedia ever written?

Look here for a short introduction to the question that includes how Wikipedia got started. If you want to go directly to the answer, click here. All I could think of was the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), but it’s not an encyclopedia.

Item 14.  X-Ray art?

British photographer Nick Veasey has a collection of pictures formed from x-rays that are at least strange. I understand the Photoshop part, but where did he get an x-ray machine?

Item 15.  Apple makes progress in textbooks with iBooks2.

Apple hopes to reinvent the textbook using iBooks2 on the iPad. It also introduced iBooks Author, a tool for self publishing and has improved iTunes U for distribution of online courses. Of course, it only works with iBookstore and Lion OS in “textbook” Apple style. Here are some screen shots of iBooks 2 in action.

Item 16.  Foundation gives expensive computers the raspberry.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has launched a project to produce credit-card-sized Linux computers that will cost about $25 and can be incorporated into many products. This open-sourced project is part of the movement for inexpensive computing for everyone. Just in: the first batch of Raspberry Pis are now on sale.

Item 17.  Apple and Motorola are fighting it out over mobile patents.

Yahoo News has reported a duel between the two giants in courts in Germany and the USA. Apple has won a victory in the “slide-to-unlock” suit, but Motorola has modified their design in subsequent devices to avoid the infringement. Google has purchased Motorola’s mobile division, so it too is now involved in the legal battle.

Item 18.  Here is a preview of Apple’s Mountain Lion OS for Macs.

This article from CNET shows screenshots from the new OS X 10.8 operating system from Apple for Macs.  It incorporates iCloud and offers many features from the IOS that’s used on tablets and phones.

Item 19.  A few drops of liquid mixed with paper can make electricity.

Sony produced an electric current from paper scraps soaked in a special water-cellulase solution for last year’s Eco-Products exhibition in Tokyo. The cellulase breaks down the paper into sugar and enzymes combine with oxygen to make electricity from the sugar. Wow. A battery with no harsh chemicals or metal can be made from shredder scraps! It has promise.

Item 20.  Here’s a collection of The Top 11 Flying Machines of 2011.

About half of them were covered in previous Tico Byte posts, but it’s a good summary of aviation progress for the year.

Item 21.  Are you interested in tech tips for Microsoft products?

Susan Harkins has publish a list of 10 such tips that she collected over the last year for Office, Word, Excel, and Outlook. It’s a little esoteric, but power users will love it. You can click on each tip for more information.

Item 22.  Are tech-writers biased?

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, who writes about Microsoft for TechRepublic, has come up with a well-thought-out piece on the subject called Loving Technology and Hating Microsoft. It’s a glimpse into the world of tech writing from someone who knows it really well.

Dick Sandlin

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