Thursday, July 31, 2008

StarOffice Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about Star Office by Sun Microsystems. Today, I wanted to tell you about why StarOffice, OpenOffice and other open source software is so important for you.

Takeaways

Here is the thing with Star Office and other applications like it: People have an inherent fear of trying new things when it requires changing from an old, common thing and especially when related to computers. Remember changing from Windows 95 to Windows XP? I do. It was different. Why would you ever stop using Microsoft Office since you know it so well? Why would you want to learn some new application? First off, I am not telling you to change. If you like what you are using, by all means, keep using it. However, the time will come when you purchase a new computer. Whether that computer is a Mac or PC (we won't consider alternatives) you will be faced with the decision: to buy, or not to buy, Microsoft Office - because its not free with the computer. You will look at the hefty price tag, take a deep breath and think, "I need it anyway, here goes." I am telling you that there is an alternative out there that does not cost you a penny. It delivers the same (and more) applications to you without the rediculous price tag. Is it really important that you consider an alternative? YES! Microsoft charges their rediculously high price because they can. Not because supply is low or the programs are soooo special. BECAUSE THEY CAN. It feels like terrorism and we don't negotiate with terrorists (not really but if I say that, all my American readers will be frightened into action).

So what happens when substitutes in a dominated market are actually utilized (i.e. when you say, I won't buy Microsoft's product because I won't pay so much for something I can get for free)? Well, a few things. If enough people switch (especially corporations - why wouldn't they, I mean its free) you will see a paradigm change in the market. Microsoft will develop even better products to differentiate theirs from the competition. The competition will do the same. So you get a better product. The prices will come down. When I say come down, I mean DOwn. How do you compete with a price that is free? Well, you make your product sweet and cheap. Simple free market economics. Can this work? Well, it sure might if enough people start to recognize the value of the proposition and if OSS developers can continue to make great products. The biggest problem is people fear changing from something they're comfortable with. By being open to change in this regard, we can shift the market into a new frontier - one that is less expensive. I tell you what, besides OpenOffice and StarOffice, there is something else in the market that might even REVOLUTIONIZE the way we look at office applications and can certainly cause headaches for Microsoft: Google. I will talk about how... tomorrow.

So, take the StarOffice or OpenOffice challenge. Download the applications and use them instead of your Microsoft Office apps. See what you think. If after a month you feel like you aren't missing anything by using the free stuff over the expensive stuff, then you have proven that the world doesn't need Microsoft Office (at least at its current price). Here is a link to Google Pack where you get it free. And here is another link to OpenOffice.org.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Star Office by Sun Microsystems Part 1

I have already reviewed OpenOffice, an office application package that is both open source and free. I really like the package because it works just like Microsoft Office, but you don't have to sell your first born to use it. Today I want to review a very similar product that is developed primarily under Sun Microsystems called Star Office. It is critical to note that StarOffice costs money while OpenOffice does not. However, StarOffice is not nearly as expensive as Microsoft Office and in a free market economy, it is critical that we have some alternatives. It is even more critical to note that if you don't want to pay for StarOffice, you can still get it for free from Google in their Google Pack. The drawback there is that you won't be able to get it for Linux or Mac OS X, just Windows. So, is StarOffice free? Only through Google. Otherwise you pay Sun to use it.

So you can get the most out of my review I have structured my comments accordingly: Introduction, The Package, Ease-of-Use, Features, Compatibility with Microsoft formats, and Takeaways.

Introduction

Star Office was originially developed by StarDivision but was purchased by Sun in 1999. OpenOffice (the free one) was actually based upon the source code of Star Office which was released in 2000. StarOffice, in turn, are based upon newer versions of OpenOffice. You can see that open source development was an important method through which Sun developed a product they now sell and profit from. This is a great example of how an open source business model can be a part of corporate strategy and help turn a profit while also developing software that is made by the users of the product. For more information on open source as a business model, click here. Recently, Google has incorporated StarOffice as part of its Google Pack, a software package for Windows containing essential programs like a virus scanner, photo editor, office application package, etc.

The Package

So what does StarOffice include in its array of applications? The interesting thing is that it contains more than the typical package of Microsoft Office. Here is a list of its contents and the file extensions they support:

Star Writer - word processor - .sdw, .sxw, .odt, .ott .doc

Star Calc - spreadsheet - .sdc, .sxc, .ods, .ots, .xls

StarImpress - presentation program - .sdd, .sxi, .odp, .otp, .ppt

StarDraw - drawing tool - .sda, .sxd, .odg, .otg

StarBase - database - .sdb, .odb

StarMath - formula generator - .smf, .sxm, .odf

Ease-of-Use

The focus of this section is really to determine how easy or hard it is to interact with StarOffice. I will try to answer questions like: Are the programs easy to use? Is the interface appealing? StarOffice has the look and feel of Microsoft Office 2003. Is it bad that it doesn't look like Office 2007? No. Office 2007 is merely a glorified, xml-ized version of 2003. StarOffice looks like 2003 and has more programs in the package and better features. Each program is intuitive and as easy to use as any office application you have used previously. The applications are not buggy so the flow of use is good.

Features

There are a host of features that I won't bother with because they are so common to Office Applications. For example, StarOffice (and OpenOffice) does EVERYTHING you would expect from your office applications. Everything. Macros, formulas, graphs, etc. Here are some additional features that make the software package appealing:

Format Changes: StarOffice allows you to save documents in .pdf format. This is extremely useful for anyone that needs to send a document that can't be modified by the next user. .pdf is also a very simple file type that many companies and individuals prefer to work with. Not only that, but you can save your files in formats beyond just .doc or .xls. Most importantly, the software does not limit you to one file format.

Package: The package you get with StarOffice is as complete as any other office apllication package and contains other useful software for editing formulas and a drawing tool.

Lastly, It's free: This is an important concept. You don't pay anything for a professiona

Compatibility- with .doc, .docs, .xls, .xlsx, etc.

You might wonder why I think this section is necessary. If you switch to OpenOffice or StarOffice, your colleuges at work, your friends, family, and everyone else in the world may not. This means that you will undoubtedly need to read the documents they create using your office application and it needs to be compatible. To this important information, there is good news and bad news.

Good News! StarOffice and OpenOffice are completely compatible with anything Microsoft has done pre-2007. That means anything without the -x on the end can be opened no problem and is completely compatible (although you might find a problem withthemes of PowerPoint files but not the data).

Bad News. Right now, OpenOffice and StarOffice don't support the .xml based files of Office 2007. There are converters out there that can help you figure it all out. The funny thing about the bad news here is that Microsoft Office 2003 won't open 2007 documents either unless you download and install the compatibility patch. A lot of people don't do this... so what's the diffferce. Anyway, a reason Microsoft created this file format was to dissuade people from using open office applications. So, if you want to use StarOffice and you want to open .-x extension files, just download the converter and everything will be fine.

Come back tomorrow to read the takeaways from this important application package. It was too long of a post to all hit today. So to learn how this can affect you and the software community favorably, come back and read tomorrow's post.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Virtual Desktop Managers

Do you ever feel your desktop is too cluttered? I feel this way all the time and I was happy to learn about 2 old and new applications that virtualize desktops in XP or Vista. First off, what is a virtual desktop? It isn't the same as OS virtualiztion which you can read about here. It simply means that instead of the one, standard desktop, you can switch between multiple "fake" desktops. For example, if you are looking at your web browser and buried beneath it is Word and iTunes and you want to be able to access these windows individually you can set them up on their own virtual desktop. Then, you can switch between the desktops when you need to use each program. It is a clever little way of staying organized and maintaining efficiency. The programs cost some RAM but its worth the expense if you have OCD about your desktop use (like me). So what are the FREE programs?

Codeplex
: from Codeplex comes a straightforward (beta) application that virtualizes in both XP and Vista. In Vista, it maintains the live thumbs (you know how when you put the cursor over a tab on the task bar in Vista you get a Live view of what is going on in that window - this capitalizes on that concept - just make sure to have at least 2gb of memory). Mind you, this is a beta version and so will have a few hiccups.

XP Power Toy: This one comes directly from our friends at Microsoft. It is ONLY compatible with XP as the company has not decided to fiddle with Vista (maybe they are afraid they will break it). It works really well and allows you to virtualize up to 4 desktops. It is somewhat easy to configure and I haven't had any problems using it - its just been fun.

What about the ones that cost money?

Otaku Software - (for Vista/XP) never used it but it got good reviews

StarDock DeskSpaces - (for Vista) This one doesn't actually virtualize desktops but it does give you nifty backgrounds for your computer, allow you to switch backgrounds, and even have a video as a background. Kind of interesting... not worth the money.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Days Off

I am taking a couple days off this week. Next post will be Thursday July 24. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Onion

I hope you all already know about this one. I have heard of the Onion News Network from a lot of people but I never checked it out. It just didn't seem like it would be interesting. Well, I was wrong. I stumbled across it a while ago and I have to say that it is amazingly funny. Holy Cow. Here is an example of a "report" they did on the World of Warcraft (if you don't know about World of Warcraft, it is basically a time sucking online quest game that is all about "leveling up" your World of Warcraft character through the eternities - because the game never ends. People spend hours and HOURS and HOURS playing this game as it is literally its own world. So, watch the video knowing that some of the people that play this game take it so seriously that they never stop playing and will some day likely turn into one of their elven characters):

'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft'

This next video is also funny. No intro necessary:

Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years

Rediculous. That one made me laugh for a while. In general, The Onion uses sarcasm to make fun of various current events or anything they think is stupid. Warning: the site does use bad language on occasion so be cautious with that. The site can also be insensitive but as long as you take everything as a joke, it is really funny. I am sure many of you already know about the Onion so this is just a reminder or for those that haven't an invitation to check it out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Open Source OS's Bonus: Live CD

Welcome to the bonus section of the Open Source Operating System mini-series. The bonus topic for today is all about Live CD's or LiveUSB. I created this section to give everyone some information on how they can try these open source operating systems without formatting or having virtualization software. The key to doing this is the "live" concept that Linux uses extensively. So here we go:

Live CD's are versions of an operating system that don't require a full install to run. They allow you to boot the operating system from the live disk and use the features of the OS almost as if you had installed it. For those of you that feel inclined to try out one of the operating systems I have highlighted or maybe another one you have heard about, it is easy with Live CD's. I found a list of the operating systems - with download links - that have Live CD's so you can play with them: click here. To create a Live CD, you need only download the ISO (disk image) and use an ISO burning software (Nero or ImgBurn) to put it on the disk. Thats it. You just run the disk on startup or there are even version that let you run the disk over your native OS and you are set. It seems to me that Ubuntu has the most popular version of a Live CD out there so check it out.

Live USB = A live USB or thumb drive would allow you to do the same thing as a Live CD with one fundamental difference. Rather than having a live image to boot from, you can actually install the full operating system on the USB thumb drive. This means that you can insert your thumb drive into the USB port, change your BIOS settings to "boot from USB drive" and then actually boot the computer from your thumb. This is actually a tool that a lot of hackers (the bad kind) use to get access to a hard drive without accessing the native operating system. That is the illegal application of this concept. The legal application is that you can boot to an operating system, get the internet, do whatever else you need to from ANY computer (that allows you to boot from USB). It also provides you a way of experimenting with various Linux OS's without all the cost of buying an extra hard drive or formatting your existing one. Here is a Google search with links to various tutorials and other such useful information (that way I don't have to do all the leg work of explaining it).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Source OS's Part 3: OpenSuse

Welcome to Part 2 of the Open Source Operating System mini-series. Today's focus is OpenSuse, a sponsored OS by Novell.

Introduction

The OpenSuse website says this about the project: "The openSUSE project is a worldwide community program sponsored by Novell that promotes the use of Linux everywhere. The program provides free and easy access to openSUSE. Here you can find and join a community of users and developers, who all have the same goal in mind — to create and distribute the world's most usable Linux. openSUSE also provides the base for Novell's award-winning SUSE Linux Enterprise products." The fact that Novell is behind the development of this software is interesting because it adds an element of more professionalism to the applications. It doesn't really make it better than other distro as big companies are behind other distros but Novell has done a great job with their Suse project. The OS is based on GNOME which is the GUI that a lot of Linux distros are based upon.

Features

Desktop: The look and feel of the OpenSuse desktop is similar to Ubuntu and XP. An interesting feature that OpenSuse has that Ubuntu does not is a virtual desktop - basically that means that you can seperate your open windows onto different windows and even go through them in a unique way. It also has a lot more desktop effects than other open source OS's like when you grab a window to move it, it kind of of sways with the way you move the cursor. The start menu is really intuitive on OpenSuse: it tabs between documents, applications, and network places to make searching fast, easy, and clean. (see last screen shot - the blue one)

Audio: OpenSuse uses Banshee audio player which I like a lot. It is actually pretty similar to the iTunes format. It also seperates into 3 different windows for artists, albums and songs so that you can sort your music really easily. Playback is typical. Banshee links to online stores so that users can purchase music and play them like on iTunes and other popular audio players. (see center shot for a look at the layout)

Visual: The graphics and video playback are what you would want and expect out of an OS. The graphics are slightly better than Ubuntu but only because the OS includes desktop effects that are pretty fun to play with. A reader pointed out on the Ubuntu post, however, that modifications can be made to the OS's to create better visual effects in Ubuntu (which is true of many Linux distros). Check out his page for an idea of how the GUI's can be modified to have a better look and feel. This is a great demonstration of how users can get MORE out of Linux based OS's because the code is not fenced in and closed off from third party modification. Linux is based on the ability of users to develop ways to customize their user experience and get more out of their machines. The problem is the technical know-how that is required to get these results.

Support Forum: OpenSuse has one of the larger support forums for users out of the Linux distros. This is a plus for users that want a free OS but also need some support and help learning how to use it. I will also note that Ubuntu has a large support forum as it is truly the Linux operating system (in my opinion) that has done most to actually make a system that is user friendly and aimed at ordinary, non-IT savy people.

E-Mail: OpenSuse uses Evolution (like Ubuntu) which interfaces with some e-mail accounts (Google in particular). This is like having Outlook on an XP. Evolution is even easier to use in my opinion.

Takeaway

Well, OpenSuse is probably the best Open Source OS out there with a large corporate sponsor. I think it is the most intuitive, the most in line with what consumers want, has the best features, is the sleekest, easiest to customize desktop OS that is free. Be warned, there is a costly one that is even better but it costs something like $80. A lot of companies buy the liscense becasue it is a stable, virus-free environment for their desktop users - and they get professional support from Novell, the company that backs the development of the OS. In the next post, I am going to tell you how you can play with these Linux distributions without having to format your computer or virtualize the OS through the use of Live CD's and Live USB's.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open Source OS's Part 2: Ubuntu

Welcome to Part 2 of Open Source Operating Systems. If you missed Part 1, click here. Today we will focus on Ubuntu. I really like Ubuntu. It was the first Linux distro that I used and I really think it is intuitive and very similar to Windows XP. This is how I will break down each exploration of the operating systems featured in the mini-series: Basic Introduction (background, history) and then Basic Features (userability and how it compares to Windows). The breakdown will be pretty simple but hopefully give you enough of an introduction to understand how you could benefit from it.

Introduction

Ubuntu says this about themselves: "Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more." It was made by a develpoment team (and a community of open developers) for developers and for the use of an everyday Joe like me. So the intimidation factor is really a non-issue when you consider that this product was made for a wide spectrum of users, you included. Ubuntu is an operating system much like Windows actually. It has many of the same characteristics. Using VMware Fusion (click here for info on that little gem of technology) I installed Ubuntu on my computer. I don't use it primarily as I have no need to. The OS, however, is definitely usable as a sole operating system. In fact, I would wager that it could substitute for any mainstream OS.

Features

Accessories: Ubuntu has all the basic accessories you would expect from an operating system like a calculator (advanced one even), desktop sticky notes, dictionary, text editor, bluetooth, wireless technology software interface, screenshot taker, disk analyzer, and anything else you could need. If the basic package does not come with a specific accessory that you need or want, you can get it very easily on the internet. All those things are really limited use and luxury items but Ubuntu has them. It doesn't do anything better necessarily than Windows in this arena although it does have a sticky note applicataion that is pretty cool.

Install: Easy shmeezy... Using a virtualization software, simply load up the ISO and go for it. If you are formatting and installing Ubuntu, boot from CD and follow the instructions. Its pretty step-by-step but if you need assistance, contact me.

Internet: you can use whatever open source web browser you want with Ubuntu. My preference is Firefox (on all platforms really) and it works beautifully with Ubuntu. The internet experience is basically the same as on Windows although some websites interact differently with Firefox than with Internet Explorer. (I took a screenshot of Firefox for y'all - see right)

Instant Messenger: Ubuntu comes standard with an instant messenger that interfaces with a variety of different e-mail accounts, Gmail most importantly.

E-Mail: the application interfaces with Google and some other e-mail services but does not work with Exchange accounts. I also loaded up Thunderbird (which I will feature in later posts) and found it to run delightfully.

Office Applications: Ubuntu comes with Open Office. Learn more about it here.

Audio: Ubuntu comes with an application called Rythmbox Music Player. Playback is great. I like the way it organizes the music. It has a window for artist, album, and songs. It also has access to music stores similar to iTunes. The OS also comes with a CD burner, CD ripper, and sound recorder. You can see the player to the right with a little chess going on in the back.

Visual: The graphics and general user interface are great. You can see in the scren shots I have taken and appear throughout this post that it has a pretty cool look. Of all Linux-based operating systems, I have found Ubuntu to be the most basic but easiest to use. In this arena, think of Ubuntu as XP. It is really quite similar. Video playback with Ubuntu is great. There is an aplication called Movie Player that plays DVD, AVI, MPEG4, etc. It also comes with a graphics editor and photo manager that both are easy to use and pretty cool actually.

Games: the OS comes with basic puzzle and arcade games (more than XP and a better variety too) but you cannot play games that you purchase from the store as they are not made (typically) for Linux-based OS's.

Takeaways

Basically, Ubuntu is a great OS for anyone looking to surf the web, listen/download music, watch movies, and produce any kind of office document (spreadsheet, document, presentation, database). It does all the basic things you would expect from an OS and with style. If you think about it, it is pretty amazing to get those applications without costing you a penny. Truthfully, I think Ubuntu has done a huge thing for the Open Source community by really making OSS OS's usable by the everyday person. Other distros are doing similar things which is execellent. The OSS movement really needs OS's like Ubuntu because they standardize and drop the level of skill required to use them. So check it out. The live CD is really good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Open Source Operating Systems Mini-Series: Part 1

Introduction: What is Open Source and Linux

This mini-series is dedicated to Linux-based operating systems. That lovable little penguin to the left is the symbol of Linux. I am a relative neophyte to the Linux arena and as such, these posts will focus on the capability these operating systems have to substitute for popular, mainstream operating systems (i.e. Windows and OS X). If I were on top of the Linux game, I could probably give you a more in depth look at each of these OS's. I can, however, offer the perspective of someone who knows a little about them and can use them enough to be able to get along without Windows or OS X. Most importantly, the operating systems I will highlight in the mini-series are a FREE substitute for otherwise costly software. Linux-based operating systems are not always free. In fact, the Open Source Software model is a viable business concept. The idea behind the mini-series is to introduce you to Linux and then highlight characteristics of a few different distributions of Linux-based operating systems. This first part will be solely introduction, upcoming posts will then focus on the desktop version of Ubuntu, OpenSuse, and Live CD's or thumbs. Prepare yourself for a look into Open Source Software (OSS) and Linux.

Some Definitions:

Open Source: any application that has open source code. Source code is the "stuff" applications are made out of. If you want an example of source code that is really basic, simply right click anywhere that isn't a link or a picture on my site here and select "view page source" from the drop down menu. What you see is a bunch of gibberish that is actually what makes this website. Operating systems have a source code rooted in an entirely different language, but you get the point. When source code is open, it means it is viewable and, therefore, modifiable. There is an official open source definition that regulates the use of the term that you can find here (for example I can't just go around saying stuff is open source when it fails to meet the definition - this is a serious legal issue). I read it and found it rather interesting. Lastly, open source does not mean free. A product can be open source and yet be owned and sold by a company that distributes it.

Linux: Basically, Linux is what operating systems that use the Linux kernel are called. See "Kernel" below for a description of a kernel. The kernel was originally designed by Linus Torvalds in 1991 which is where the name originates. The kernel is used in a variety of "Linux" operating systems including, but not limited to: Red Hat, Suse, Mandrive, Ubuntu, etc. When a person says "I use Linux" they could be refering to a variety of distributions of Linux-based operating systems (see definition below).

Kernel: a Kernel is the basic building block of an operating system (see diagram on right). Its basic function is to manage system resources. So think of the operating system in layers. There is the resource layer, the kernel layer, and the application layer. The kernel is the facilitator.

Linux Distribution: a Linux Distribution (or distro) is a deliverable operating system based upon the Linux kernel. Deliverable does not mean finished, rather that the operating system is delivered to "mid-users" and/or "end-users". A "mid-user" or developer is a person that will download or otherwise obtain a copy of the operating system and further develop the code of that OS while the end-user is the individual that will actually use the system to perform the tasks it was designed to carry out. It is important to note that end-users in the case of a Linux distribution are very often developers as well. Linux distributions never really stop being developed. For example, servers (the things that run large application and handle large loads of users and data) are often based upon open source products like FreeBSD, Solaris, and Linux. Such products are developed and sold by a company (end-user) with an open source code that allows the company to modify and customize its performance (development).

Business Implication of the Open Source Model

It is important to note how the Open Source Software model has affected the business element of software development. First, what is the traditional software development model? Basically, think Microsoft, Apple, and any company that produces a product that you can't change. They sell a product that is meant to be used by a range of consumers. When I think traditional model, I think: closed source code, powerful applications, customer service, lots of money, sometimes monopoly. This does not mean that they can't produce customizable products, but it does mean that you can't see their kernel. They don't want you to see it because it is their trade secret. Like a the secret recipe to Coke. Coke will NEVER give out their recipe because it is what makes them unique and special. This also doesn't mean that companies that follow an Open Source model can't be unique and special.

How does Open Source as a business model differ? We have established that the software isn't always free. In many cases, businesses own the software and make money off it. How does it work if the source code is open? Well, a company basically licenses their product to other companies or individuals to use and they leave the source code open to them. Why is this better than just getting the same product free and open? Well, two reasons really: 1) the product is ready for customization or is customized to meet the needs of the purchasing company upon delivery (or going live, or whatever); 2) these companies provide customer service akin to what you would expect from any other, non-open source company. Now, obviously many companies can still customize their products to meet the specific needs of their customer without following the open source model. The real difference is that a company offering an open source code really is allowing the customer to do what they want with the product outside of whatever they are willing to customize themselves. This model has been adopted on a large scale by companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems, Novell, etc. Even Microsoft, over the years, has opened itself up to the notion of developer communities and even opened up bits and pieces of their highly secretive Windows kernel. As a side note, ALL of the Chinese, Brazilian, and many other governments use ONLY open source software.

What Does All This Mean to You?

The thing about Linux in general is it is intimidating to use. The Linux community is full of computer geeks that love to fiddle around with the source code of all the applications they use so that they get exactly what they want. Most people aren't insane computer geeks like that so the notion of using a product they use is rather uninteresting. I completely understand this sentiment as it is one that I struggle with too. However, it is really important to know that a lot of the time, developers that make these products have the end-user (like you) in mind. They are actually trying to design a product that you can use because they either want to sell it to you (as a more cost effective substitute than say Windows or OS X) or they believe that everyone should be able to obtain products like operating systems legally and free of charge. The products we will focus on in this mini-series are like this. They are operating systems that are free, easy-to-use, and, best of all, require little Linux know-how to operate.

Takeaways:

Please don't feel intimidated if these ideas are new to you or if Linux geeks have frightened you before. What we are about to explore is really interesting and easy to understand on a basic level. I hope that you feel at least a little inclined to play around with open source operating systems as a result of this mini-series. If not, I hope that you understand it a little better and even understand that it is a viable business model.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Woot.com

I like good deals on technology. Don't you? Sometimes the best deal is available through sites that sell refurbished products. Today we will feature just such a site: Woot.com.

I found out about Woot from my brother-in-law, Jason. He likes to check it out for good deals and stuff and he got me hooked. Woot is not like other discount sites like buy.com or newegg.com because it only features one product a day. The deal on those products, however, is very good. For instance, the day I wrote this post, the featured product was a Dyson DC Slim All-Floor Vacuum selling for 259.99. I took a screenshot of it (on the right). Not a bad price for the product. I will be honest, I have never actually purchased anything from Woot so I can not say much about the quality, speed of service, or anything like that. However, I can say they feature a lot of cool stuff. I check out the site daily and I think its fun to see the great deals on different products (they range from vacuums to iPods to hard drives).

The Woot people claim they are not making a profit which was probably a joke. I think they somehow get there hands on refurbished products and are able to sell them at a great price. If anyone reading this knows more about how they get their products or about their service, let me know. I would be willing to buy a product from them that I felt was a great deal. Anyway, check out the site and tell me what you think.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Windows Blinds by Stardock

I really like little things that make my XP or Vista desktop a little more sleek, efficient, and fun. Anytime I hear about an application or package of applications like that, I try it out to see what I think. Any application I try needs to be free, or at least have a free version because I don't have money to throw away, but mostly because I love freeware and open source. Anyway, I have already talked about Objectdock by Stardock and now I want to talk about another application by Stardock called Windows Blinds.

Windows Blinds is pretty sweet. Its especially cool if you still use XP but want a different look for your OS. It pretty much allows you to change the whole appearance of your windows. You can select from the themes that Stardock has already created and if you buy the software, you can even create your own themes. The application lets you change the transparency of the windows (like in Vista) to give it a glassy look (check out the screenshots I took). You can also change fonts and some other basic things. For more features like animation, colors, etc. you have to purchase the software. One skin in particular is a Mac-like theme, except you can make it more transparant. The application is really easy to use and once you change your desktop stlye (in XP) to one of their styles, you won't want to change back. Honestly though, the free version is not nearly as cool as I hoped it would be. They are definitely trying to make a buck off their software. For other free ideas on theme customization, check out this site.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

YamiPod

Have you ever needed (or wanted) to pull the files off your iPod and stick them on your computer? I have an interesting story to that effect. I was out of the country for two years and when I got back, I had no idea what an iPod was. I was in the car with my brother when I saw him using one. I asked, "what the heck is that thing?" He kindly (to his credit - I have great brothers) responded "an iPod." I asked, "what's an iPod?" After his explananation I knew that I was destined to obtain one and use it to its fullest potential. I did.

I got a 30 gb black video iPod which I affectionately deemed my "Gold Baby." In fact, when you plugged in my iPod, it was literally titled, Gold Baby. Anyway, I decided when I first got my iPod that I would try and take some of the files off by simply dragging and releasing (you know, I was experimenting). Well, to my dismay, I lost all my data as a result of my naivety. So, I discovered that day that you can't pull music off an iPod and to just not try. I was naive and wrong again. Indeed you can pull your music off, you just need a special way to get around the defenses Apple has in place. A solution: YamiPod.

YamiPod is a very simple application that simply allows you to manage your music and copy files from the iPod to the computer without any hiccup. Coincidentally, I began using YamiPod only 2 months prior to my loss of the once great Gold Baby, that was callously stolen by a drug addict (I assume the thief was a drug addict because I found a lighter and only drug addict have lighters right?). Anyway, darn good thing I backed up my iPod otherwise I might be even more sad about it. Think about all the value that is on those things. Let's figure it out: So let's say you have the iPod Classic 80gb itself which is worth around $250. You have 40gb of music and around 30 movies on it. Here we go:
  • 40gb of music is roughly 10,000 songs at $.99 per song = $9,900
  • 30 movies at an average $8 dollars (assuming you bought it from iTunes, even if you didn't the time needed to convert a file is worth at least $8) = $240
  • Total Value = $10,390
Valuable? I think so. Important to have backed up? YES! You might be asking, but I get all my music from my own computer where I have the files backed up anyway. Okay, that's all fine and good but don't you ever get music from another computer? Didn't know you could? You can hook your iPod to 5 computers max.

Use YamiPod. It has a pretty simple interface, its pretty easy to set up. Just follow the directions and you will be set. There are other iPod to computer applications in the world but this one is free and versatile as it works on Mac, PC, and Linux. Its pretty sweet. My props to the developer.

You need to download either via torrent or the binary. If you need some help, let me know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mac or PC Part 4: Quality and Conclusion

Welcome to Part 4 of the Mac or PC mini-series. We have covered the price, operating system performance, and perks of the operating systems. Its been a bit exhausting up to this point but I hope that the information helps you make a choice. If not that, I hope that you at least know more now about Vista and Leopard, PC and Mac than you did before. Today's focus is to talk about quality a bit and finally conclude the mini-series. Here we go:

Is quality an issue? The question of quality is really related to consumer perception and actual performance. It boils down to a question of the manufacturing inputs involved for both companies. There is a huge difference between Apple and Microsoft on this front. Apple controls every aspect of their supply chain. They find hardware suppliers (sometimes do it themselves), they manage the logistics, they control the distribution channel. Microsoft, on the other hand, is involved solely in selling licenses. They sell the right to distribute their OS to an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) Dell, HP, Sony, etc. They don't necessarily care about the supply chain to the extent that Apple does. They don't sell the computers that contain their OS. They sell the OS. How does this relate to quality? Apple can control the quality of their OS, the processor, the memory, the hard drive, the blah, the blah , the blah. Microsoft can control the quality of the OS, the vendor, the... that's it.

I think the most obvious implication of this fundamental difference is that Apple can control more aspects of the system their OS is delivered on than can Microsoft. You can ONLY buy Mac from Apple or licensed dealers and either way Apple produces it, no one else. You can buy a PC from any licensed distributor: in other words, Vista can be found on a wide spectrum of systems ranging from real crap to superb. So, when purchasing a PC, you MUST be aware of who you are buying the system from AND what system you are purchasing. Boiled down, a consumer of PC and Mac asks his or herself the following basic questions for each:

PC = what do I want? who am I getting it from? what system? what hardware? will it work?
Mac = what do I want? what system?

The purchasing decision for a Mac buyer is fundamentally easier than it is for a PC buyer. The question of quality, therefore, is more straightforward for Mac buyers than PC buyers (i.e. Mac buyers know what they are getting, PC buyers know what they are getting after more research and evaluation of each manufacturer and system).


Is one really better than the other? If we are just talking about the operating systems, both are very good. Both Vista and Leopard are wonderful accomplishments. To find out which one you prefer most, use them. Play with both of them and do the things you normally do on a computer. You will find out a lot more that way than you will reading my post. I hope that through this little exploration, you have learned new things about both systems and I hope that you will go out and use both. Honestly, I use both operating systems and I really like both of them.

So that's it for this mini-series. Its been fun! Lastly, remember that quality depends on the manufacturer. So if you do decide to buy a PC, investigate the manufacturer AND the specific model you are purchasing. Do a google search for problems with specific models and you will find out if they are having HDD problems, incompatability issues, or whatever.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mac or PC Part 3b: Operating System - Perks

Welcome to Part 3b of the Mac or PC mini-series. Today's topic is all about the perks of Leopard. I will also conclude Part 3 with my take on the situation. So here we go with some of the perks of Leopard.

Spaces: This is a terrific feature that outdoes the window flip features of Vista. In a very simple way, spaces allows you to switch between multiple desktops so that you can keep your work area clean and organized. Think of it as having a large desk that allows you to place papers, a computer, food, your cell phone, etc. all in their own area. Its the same with Spaces. You simply assign a program to a space and it will open only in that space. For pictures and screenshots click here.

Time Machine: This is probably one of the coolest features on Leopard. This is the way Mac backs itself up. You need an external drive of some sort that has been Mac formatted. You set up your Mac to back itself up every specified interval of time. It does one major backup, then, from that point on, makes a backup of only the changes to documents and files. That way, you gets quick backups whenever you want. I would back mine up every hour or so if I was always connected to an external. But wait! That isn't even the best part. The best part is when you need to go back and look for a document or whatever. So lets say you accidentally deleted a file that you were working on for work. The boss really needs the file today and you have no idea where it went. Well, you know that you made the document last Friday so you go into the Time Machine (a wide open space appears on the screen filled with windows going back as far as the eye can see) and go back in time to Friday. When I say you go back in time I mean it. A window opens up that allows you to scroll through your system backups. Each system backup looks exactly like the system looks normally so it is extremely easy to use. Check out the screenshot from the Apple website. In Time Machine you can even preview deleted documents.

HotSpots: HotSpots are a cool little feature that allow you to perform simple tasks by running the cursor to the corners of the desktop. For example, lets say you have a few windows open on the desktop and need to move them all so you can look at a file on the desktop. Easy. Simply set up your hotspot so that by running the cursor to one of your corners will move all the windows on the desktop. Even better, assume that you want to select a window that is buried under a bunch of other windows. Set up hotspots to spread out your windows. Below, the left picture shows the windows buried, the right picture shows them spread out:









Beyond that, Hot Corners allows you to select between difference spaces, bring down the dashboard, start the screen saver, and sleep the display.

iPhoto: iPhoto is not a totally unique feature, although it is noteworthy. The reason I include it here is because it comes with Leopard as a part of the package whereas with Vista, to get an application as good as this one, you would need to purchase one or use Picasa. The reason I love iPhoto so much is that it makes photo managements extremely easy. Importing and organizing pictures can be a truly daunting task without a photo management app like this one. You can also edit your photos using this application (although not to the extent that a program like Photoshop allows).

iSite Camera: The camera that comes built in to all Macs is awesome. For such a simple device, it is truly awesome. Have you ever been video chatting with a friend and your camera is really laggy and sucky. Well, that might be a bandwidth problem but it could also be a camera problem. The iSite camera on the Mac makes the chatting experience more smooth and the image more clear. You can even have fun with your images like the picture you see to the left.

Boot Camp: I will talk about BootCamp which I have used extensively and point you to information about the far superior (and costly) VMware Fusion, which I use far more extensively. BootCamp comes free on all Leopard distributions. It allows you to actively partition your hard drive to add a Windows partition. I say "actively" because you can do this at your leisure - partition the drive or unpartition the drive without formatting. You can install any version of Windows and it works like a charm. You can then switch between the operating systems when you boot. You can even default boot to Windows if you want. It is important to note that I use virtualization more as it is more convenient, however, BootCamp works better with Vista as it allows you to run the Aero GUI. Anyway... BootCamp is really great and it points to how unthreatened Apple feels by Microsoft. In fact, how they embrace the differences between them and capitalize off them. Amazing.

GarageBand: Last but not least, every musicians power toy, GarageBand. This also comes standard with Leopard (as do all of the highlighted perks) and is equally cool. This application allows you to edit and mix your own music. I don't do this. I am sure there are superior applications out there that you can buy but this one is free. I do use this for its ability to make ringtones for my phone, which I just bluetooth over to my phone... No purchasing, no e-mailing the file, exactly the song and part I want, awesome. So thats cool. Beyond that, I have tried mixing some random stuff I found online and I found the application easy to use.

My Take on the Whole Situation: I have found that the biggest difference between what Microsoft is doing with Vista and what Mac is doing with Leopard is all a matter of user experience. Vista seems to focus on appearance while Leopard seems to focus on the applications that users want. If you look at the two posts on the various perks, the main difference is one is all applications the other is all interface stuff. So, why is this important. Microsoft sits on a high horse. There are thousands of people that program applications that are compatible with it. I imagine they figure they can focus on other things besides deliverable applications because those thousands of applications fill the gap - for free! The problem with this view is that it ignores a few critical facts: 1) people don't like to go out and get a bunch of applications or they simply don't know how, 2) all those other apps may not run as smoothly with the OS as could other apps that are native - i.e. made by Microsoft - in fact, you will notice that a lot of problems with Windows on all platforms are the "other" applications that bug it up, and 3) native software development can lead to innovations that simply are not occuring at Microsoft. Apple, however, is trying to deliver as innovative a product as they possibly can. They don't have 3rd party programmers to rely on, they don't have the luxury of a high horse. Rather, they are fighting for a market share. This conflict is producing results for Apple and it will continue to do so as long as they maintain the mentality of innovation=market share.

So, what are the takeaways? Both Vista and Leopard offer unique features that are good for different people. Which perks do you prefer? Which ones will make your experience with your computer better? Figuring this out for yourself will help you make a selection between the two. My take of everything might be a little slanted but I hope I have demonstrated why.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mac or PC Part 3a: Operating System - Perks

Welcome to the third installment of the Mac or PC mini-series: Operating System - Perks. I call this section "perks" because it is really an explanation of the features of each operating system that are unique to it. I don't want to talk about the things that each operating system does that the other does just as well like mail applications or iTunes. You will notice, however, that I will focus on certain things that, although both can do, one does better. I want to explore the perks of each operating system as extensively as possible so we will do Vista today and Leopard tomorrow. So let's get started.

Aero: this is the sleek new GUI (graphics user interface) that is a part of the new PC user experience. I briefly mentioned this new feature in my last post but it is certainly of note here. Really, Aero by itself is too broad. Lets narrow it down by the features of the new GUI:
  1. Glass: This is what makes the whole environment look glossy and transparent. You can even customize the colors of your windows to give it the look and feel you prefer the most. The transparency of the windows can be increased so that the windows are practically see-through. Look at the picture to the right and notice that the borders surrounding each of the windwos are practically transparant. This gives Vista a very sophisticated look.
  2. High dpi: Vista comes with greaters dpi (dots per inch) power. Basically, the resolution is better using Vista than in any previous version of Windows.
  3. Live Thumbnails: This is nifty little feature that allows you to see what a minimized window is simply by putting the cursor over the top of it. It expands an image of the window so you can figure out if that is the one you really wanted to open. See the picture on the Right.
  4. Windows Flip and Flip 3-D: Windows Flip by itself is not a new or unique feature. The 3-D version is though. Flip allows you to select between windows on your desktop by pressing alt+tab. A selecter opens up that allows you to tab through to find the window you want. Flip 3-D does the same thing, only it actually arranges the windows in a 3-D fashion and allows you to pick one. I like this feature and it definitely adds to the user experience of Vista.
I have to be fair here. While these features are really nice, they make Vista an extremely heavy operating system. The idea behind Vista, according to Microsoft, was to make it easier to focus on content rather than the environment. Well, I guess I'm not sure if they accomplished that by focusing on the environment and loading it down with features. A lot of Vista users, myself included, agree that Vista is too heavy for its own good. Which is actually why, in the windows family, I prefer the XP diet. Vista users would be interested in the ReadyBoost feature (see below) that offsets this rather significant disadvantage.

Office Apps: I personally feel that Microsoft Office 2007 is the most innovative package of office applications available. The "ribbon" idea is extremely easy to use. The buttons on the ribbon make it very easy to get what you want in a document, spreadsheet, or database. I will admit that it does require the user to learn the nuances, however, once learned, Office 2007 is a powerful office suite. I really like it. To make a direct comparison with Office 2008 for Mac, the PC version is much more powerful. I am not sure if this is because Microsoft does not want to make an "as-awesome" version of Office for Mac or if Mac users don't think that the PC style is "as-awesome" as the Mac style. Basically, I hate that Office Mac uses a toolbox which is far inferior to the ribbon on Office PC. Either way, because I personally dislike Office 2008 for Mac I virtualize Office 2007 for PC on my Mac. I included two screenshots so you can see the ribbon in 2007 and the toolbox in 2008.


ReadyBoost: This feature compensates for some of the heavier aspects of Vista, specifically those memory taxing aspects of Vista. ReadyBoost is probably one of the coolest features I have seen on a PC in a long time. Basically, it allows you to use a thumb drive as memory. It works by sending any overflow from the system memory to a cache on the thumb drive. When you initially plug in a thumb drive into your computer, Vista will recognize it and ask you what you want to do with it (i.e. open it, play the music on it, play a video, etc.). You will also be asked if you want the drive as your ReadyBoost drive. If it doesn't ask you that, go to My Computer, right click and select properties, click the ready boost tab and set up the drive that way. You can allot up to half of the drives capacity (i.e. 2 gb for a 4 gb stick, 4 for an 8, etc) up to 4gb total. I just happen to have tried it on both the 2 gb and 4gb setting (I have a 4gb and 8gb stick) and the 4gb was almost superfluous. Using 1gb of system memory I ran an operation that took around 15 seconds (eons - it felt like). Adding ReadyBoost with 2gb extra memory, the same operating took 2.5 seconds. Using 4gb of memory it took around 2 seconds. So it works and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There is a claimed disadvantage to this feature pointing to the fact that flash memory can only carry out a finite number of "writes" and that eventually your drive will be worn out. This is true, but it will take around 10 years for most drives.

That does it for Vista, stay tuned tomorrow for the post on Leopard.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Weekend Break: Happy 4th

I love the seasonal Google logos! To all my regular viewers out there: I am taking a break for the weekend as it is an important holiday and I've lost the use of my right pointer finger. I have 10 stitches on the tip of my finger from a nasty accident I had with a window. Posts will return Monday! Have a Happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mac or PC Part 2: The Operating Systems - Requirments

Welcome to Part 2 of the Mac or PC mini-series. Today's topic for discussion is the differences between the operating systems utilized by the Mac and PC respectively. As we all know, PC's are based on the Windows operating systems while Mac is based upon the OS X operating systems. Popular versions of Windows include 95, 98, 2000, XP, and most currently Vista. Recent popular versions of the Mac OS include Tiger and Leopard. Today's discussion will focus mainly on the performance characteristics of each of the operating system’s most current platforms, Vista and Leopard. We will focus on the requirements of each OS and talk a bit about performance: Here are the minimum requirements for each system:

Windows Vista:
* 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
* 1 GB of system memory
* 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
* Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
o WDDM Driver
o 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)
o Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
o 32 bits per pixel

Leopard:
* Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor
* 512MB of memory
* DVD drive for installation
* 9GB of available disk space
* Some features require a compatible Internet service provider; fees may apply.
* Some features require Apple's .Mac service; fees apply.

Now, let's compare and contrast the two OS's in a factual manner. I will try to keep my opinions out (although a couple might seep out). The factors we will focus on here are processors, memory, appearance, and battery usage for laptop owners:

Processors: As you can tell, the processor requirements are basically the same. Mac still uses the PowerPC processor although it only manufactures its new computers using Intel chips. Really, both need to be run on dual core chips. You won't be able to run Mac on an Intel chip designed before a certain date that aren't core based (which is only really applicable if you want to run Leopard on a PC). Additionally, PC supports AMD processors while Mac does not. AMD are supposively better at running games and stuff. As far as processors are concerned, no huge differences unless you really want to play games on an AMD.

Memory usage: There are significant differences between the machines on this front. I have run Vista on 1gb of memory and I have to say, it sucked. Personally, I think Vista is a bogged down version of XP (oops, an opinion). That is to say, they added some features pinnacled by the Aero GUI (said gooey, Graphics User Interface) that gives Vista that sleek, smooth look. The only drawback is that it consumes a lot of memory (unless your machine has a video card with autonomous memory - which is to say, it does not share memory with the machine. Most computers don't come with video cards like that). Try this, if you run Vista and are using the desktop sidebar, it should come with a system performance monitor (if it isn’t there, click the little plus sign on top of the sidebar and select CPU performance or whatever). It looks like a speedometer. Now, with all applications closed, look at the monitor. It will tell you how much memory your system is using just sitting there. Right now, mine says 40% of 1gb... with nothing running (besides the sidebar). Mac, on the other hand, is another story. To give you an idea, I am currently using 1 gb (of 2) with the following open: 6 pages of Firefox, a sticky note program, a 4gb download, Word, Powerpoint, iChat, Microsoft Messenger, Divx Player, iMail, iCal, and iTunes (playing the Killers). I am only using half of what I have. So, hopefully that illustrates the differences of system usage for you.

Appearance: Vista is a very sleek looking OS. The lines are much smoother than XP (which was huge for XP when it came out because its lines were really smooth too). The Aero graphics enhancement feature is really quite neat. I have turned Aero on and off to see the difference and it’s big. Leopard is also a very sleek looking OS. Its GUI is a bit different in terms of memory taxation (discussed above). Leopard doesn't need a super-duper video card which excludes it from being able to play a lot of the new computer games because it does not typically use acceleration and such, but then again, PC's don't usually come standard with graphics acceleration. This can be a pretty serious disadvantage to the gaming inclined. However, if you don't really play computer games (because you hate them or play PS3, Xbox360, or Wii) then who cares if the computer plays games. A lot of people do, however, watch movies on their computer and both Vista and Leopard playback movies in similar quality. The LCD screens on both are relative equivalents although PC's can really vary in quality as manufacturers differ.

Battery: For Laptop users: The battery usage between the two OS's vary substantially. Vista is quite draining on a battery. It can drain a battery about 50% faster than XP. A typical computer running windows Vista gets about 1-2 hours of charge on average. I went ahead and tested this by running Vista on my machine and asking some family and friends that use Vista to see what kind of charge they were getting. Most computers reported about 1.5 hours of charge. So what of the Mac? Leopard is FAR LESS DRAINING on the battery. If I am running typical programs like a web browser, word processor, or what have you, I get around 5 hours of charge. If I watch a movie that number drops to 4 hours. This is true of all MacBooks, however, I cannot personally vouch for the Pro. So, I asked some guy and some other guy (on separate occasions) that I found in the hall at school and they reported 4 hours per charge. The pro has better hardware so no big stretch of the imagination there.

My Take: Now I will let my opinions flow forth. As far as system performance is related to the operating systems run by Mac and PC respectively, I would conclude that the Mac outperforms the PC. There is really only one area where PC is typically better than the average Mac and that is in the video cards they use on average. However, I must say that this difference is trivial considering there aren’t many computer gamers left in the world and why would you really need all that video power without any use for it? Waste of money really. Memory and Battery usage are two areas where Leopard really outperforms Vista.

I won’t say much more than that. Please feel free to comment on what has been written. I would love to respond to any concerns or questions you have about today’s subject.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mac or PC 4 Part Mini Series: Part 1: Price:

Welcome to the Mac or PC mini-series. My purpose with this series is to educate, not indoctrinate. The purpose is to discover which machine you prefer. I don't want you to care about what I think, necessarily. I hope to present the facts for each and help you figure it out for yourself. We are going to explore the differences and similarities between a Mac and PC broken down into the following 4 factors: Price, the Operating System, Perks, and Quality. I have broken them down like this to model the decision-making process for a computer. I have had to take a few liberties, however, in generalizing the many hundreds of models a consumer can choose from. I have chosen the standard for each in both desktop and laptop computers, as one or the other is bound to meet your computing needs. Remember the specific models we are currently considering as we will be referring to them through the rest of the series. Let's begin with the laptop.

Laptop Comparison: First, why would you need a laptop? I hope that question has an obvious answer to you. To determine whether you need a laptop or not, consider the mobility and computing power you need in a computer. Do you use a computer in more than one place or mostly in one place? Remember, our focus for this first part is Price. We will ONLY consider price at this time. We will extend the discussion into the other factors through the coming parts. I got on both dell.com and mac.com and built my own laptop on each. This is what I found, click on the links to see the specs:

Dell XPS Laptop = $1099.00
Mac Macbook = $1099.00

It is important to recognize 2 differences between the above two models. The Mac has less hard drive space by 40gb but has a slightly better processor than the Dell. The Dell has more memory than the Mac, but the Mac needs less RAM than the Dell. I found these differences to be trivial and the machines to be relative equivalents.

Desktop Comparison: Let's now consider the question of price in the terms of a typical iMac and a Dell Desktop with equivalent design and specs. The two computers are the basic iMac and the XPS Dell all-in-one. Again, I got on both dell.com and mac.com and built my own computer on each. I built them to be as close to the same as I possibly could. Here are links to the two computers and their prices:

Dell XPS all-in-one = $ 1,299.00
Mac iMac = $ 1,299.00

What? The same price?!? I thought PC was cheaper? As you can see, I got the two computers as close as possible to being the same. The most important thing I couldn't control for was the video card in each system. I am sure the Dell is slightly better than the Mac, however, they are fairly close equivalents. Had I not upgraded the RAM on the Mac, it would have been $100 less than the Dell. The Mac doesn't need 2gb of RAM like the Dell needs it.

Conclusion: from today's discussion, focused solely on price, we can conclude that Mac and PC are equivalents. This is very important as we move through the rest of this mini-series because it helps frame the rest of the discussion. Concluding that both are RELATIVE price equivalents, we have determined that both can be considered equally in terms of what you can afford. It is important to note at this time that you can buy a very powerful computer (both Mac and PC) that is not all-in-one and that is much less expensive than the models considered. Click the following links to see those models: Mac Mini or Dell XPS. In this case, the Dell is better than the Mac in terms of hard drive space (150 to 250 gb) and video card but the Mac mini is much MUCH smaller than the Dell. The price of both, Mac Mini= $850.00 and Dell= $900.00