Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Upside of Social Media

If you've read any of my earlier posts - you'll know that I've always had mixed feelings when it comes to social media.

On the one hand, it's a huge time-suck and it's easy to get distracted and spend useless hours updating your status(es), profile(s), and all responding to others' messages, opening cool links with YouTube videos in them, etc.

With so many social media outlet clamoring for attention - you also have to check multiple services with multiple logins - and then try to keep track of all the "friends" (or "followers" or whatever) you have on each service - and then post relevant stuff to that particular site.

Which site do you check most often? Where should you invest your time? If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Plaxo, MySpace and Yammer accounts (which I do) - who the hell has time to check/update all those sites? Even with aggregation tools, it's a nightmare.

Every time I watch Twitter feeds live - I feel like I'm watching the matrix of humanity just like in the movie.

So, I've started to focus a lot of my attention on a couple of services: Twitter and Facebook. Just those two are enough for me at this point! Even then, I have a fairly large number of "friends" on Facebook - but it's nice to read the interesting status updates, browse other folks' pictures and just keep in touch with people.

There are a lot of sad moments, happy moments, silly moments and basically everything in between. I don't comment on a lot of the posts - I mainly just "lurk" - but there are some people who could just really use a bit of encouragement now and then - so I'll post a comment (or snarky remark!).

I don't know about you, but I feel a bit impotent writing "You're in our thoughts" or "You'll make it, don't worry" or some other equally dazzling comment. I mean, I really hope that person gets it worked out or that things turn around for them - or whatever - but it just feels like a store-bought card versus a hand-written one.

You never really know if what you said was even read - much less if it even helped the other person.

So, I've been sort of lax in my commenting of other people's status updates lately - but all that is going to change.

You see, this weekend I was on the receiving end of those comments - when Brenda went into the hospital with a heart attack scare (she's fine - heart is OK). Beyond the incredible support of our family (shout out to Theresa, Julie and my mom!) - the number of caring, thoughful posts on the status updates were something that really helped me out.

In the long hours sitting and waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting!) - I was able to update my status multiple times - and would find myself checking back every 10 minutes to see if anyone responded yet... and 90% of the time - someone did.

It feel really good to know that others were out there lending a sympathetic ear and offering their encouragement and support.

It was beyond just what they said (which was really encouraging) - it was the fact that they took the time to read my status update (among the 100's they have in their News Feed) - and then took the time to formulate a response.

It really made a difference to me - and was very moving.

For those of you who don't have a Facebook account yet - sign up at - and if you are on Facebook - look me up: and "add" me as a friend (there's no "acquaintance" or "some jerk" buttons, unfortunately).

Once again, I want to THANK all the Facebook folks who responded to our situation over the weekend from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mac - I'm Lovin' It!

I've only been using my Mac for two days - and let me just say this: I'm so happy I could just scream!

The performance is incredible. Apps that launch like dogs on my XP-based PC simply appear in 1-2 seconds. A reboot (yes, I did one - just to time it) - 25 seconds from off to fully up and running - versus 8 MINUTES on my PC.

Plugged in my Dell monitor - WHAM - it just appears. At the right resolution.

Plugged in my USB headset - WHAM - it just works.

Plugged in an external windows-formatted USB drive - WHAM - recognized it instantly.

Plugged in a Windows 1 TB external drive for the Time Machine backups - and it asked if I wanted to use it for Time Machine backups? Yes. Needs to be re-formatted - proceed? Ummmm... what?? Oh crap - this is going to take forever, but yeah, OK, go ahead... WHAM 12 SECONDS later the backup is starting.

Auto-discovery of my PC - including all my share folders - WHAM - instantly.

iTunes-dedicated keys on the keyboard for prev/next/play/pause - CHECK.

Mac Mail program - setup and checking 5 accounts - CHECK.

iChat instantly setup - and now I can send media effortlessly and do group chats with zero effort - CHECK.

Skype set - and the machine actually remains responsive even with 10 programs running - CHECK.

Photos imported into iPhoto (from the PC) - and it recognizing faces of people in pictures and allows me to change the orientation by turning my fingers on the glass trackpad - CHECK.

With the great suggestions from fellow Mac folks on Facebook and comments from yesterday's story - I got loaded up with some nifty (and free) utilities and programs. I even got OpenOffice 3.0 up and running with ZERO problems - and used it to create some documents - that I copied to my PC and opened with ZERO problems.

The next OS update is coming out Friday - and even though Apple will still charge me $29 for the upgrade (bless their little revenue-generating hearts) - I'll do it to get a true 64-bit OS - so it will go even FASTER (if that's possible).

The crappiest part of the setup so far was finding and downloading and installing the HP drivers for my Officejet printer... but even that was no more difficult than doing it on a PC.

I hear people bitching about how much more expensive the Macs are than PCs. This is true. They are more expensive - but THEY WORK! I'll bet that if you added up all the time you spent SCREWING with your PC, downloading and restarting after patch Tuesday, in trying to get peripherals to work, in just the general care and feeding of your PC - it's WAY more expensive than the $1,000 difference in up-front price.

I'm researching Mac alternatives to Illustrator and Photoshop (that can read the .ai and .psd files)... so if you are using something you like - leave a comment and let me know!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hell Freezes Over...

OK - it's official. I'm now a Mac.

I'm writing this entry from my brand-spanking-new 15" MacBook Pro. 

Really. I just got it. Like an hour ago.

Those of you who have had the courage to read this rant for long enough know that I started out as a die-hard Mac fanatic. I was the typical Mac fanboy - long before the word existed.

I would even spell Windoze wrong and made fun of all those people who used it.

Then, I became a PC.

Why? Well, all of my customers had dumped the Mac and had gone with Windows - and when you're focusing on integrating desktop databases with SQL - you had better get yourself a Windoze box (still the case today).

Then, I don't know what happened... I slowly actually became that PC guy in the Apple ads.

I started to think PCs as more capable than Macs (at least in some areas) - and I just accepted the complete B.S. patches and upgrades as a way of life. I just grew to accept the 5-8 MINUTE boot times, the crappy auto-restarts, the sheer insecurity and fragility of the Windows OS as a fact of life...

Well - that's past. I've been ranting about how much Windoze sucks for so long - that it was time to either put up or shut up (or both). So, I literally arrived back from Australia less than 5 hours ago - and I dragged my jet-lagged ass to the Apple Store in Thousand Oaks.

I had my MacBook, mini-DVI-VGA adapter (for my 26" Dell monitor), a neoprene cover and I was out the door in less than 15 minutes.

I got home, unpacked the box, entered the WEP address of my router to get on the Internet - and that's it folks... done deal.

I've downloaded Firefox, and I'm now downloading the 650+ MB of updates to the OS (no worse than the typical MS patch cycle!). But the thing about this Mac is that (so far) everything just works.

I'm still getting used to the glass trackpad and the 20 finger gestures - but everything else is pretty natural. I've configured some settings, changed the dock location and size - and have started to hit my favorite websites and store them as bookmarks, etc.

I can't tell you the number of times I've reformatted my PC hard drive over the years - and have had to "start from scratch" like this. Only - this time - if I need to transfer stuff to a new Mac it will just do it for me automatically.

What's the fate of my trusty (albeit slow) Dell D430 laptop? Well, for the time being it will be my trusty companion until I get all the stuff off of it, and have a chance to re-buy all my favorite software for the Mac (assuming I can get all my favorite software on a Mac)...

So, we'll see. I'm sure I'll have to use the PC for some stuff - and it will be a great testing machine for all the Servoy development work I'm doing - but, starting today - the Mac will be my primary platform.

Considering the last time I had a Mac as my primary platform - OS 9 was all the rage - there will be a learning curve, to be sure... and I also have to now go and read all the online sites that I've never really cared about (Mac-centric ones) to see what all the best goodies are... but all-in-all I'm excited about the process of becoming a Mac again.

If you have suggestions for your favorite Mac utilities and stuff - let me know...

I'm Bob Cusick... and I'm a Mac...
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