A High School Student’s Thoughts On The Third Metric

On June 6, 2013, I was privileged to attend a conference hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski, The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money And Power. Here is a short reflection I wrote afterwards, originally printed on The Huffington Post.

The latter half of my high school junior year had been an Advil-aided blur. After three months dangling from a 2400-point rope, I swam through pools of answer bubbles, DBQs, and rhetorical analysis essays, holding my breath for four hours each with only one, ten-minute break. And then I shoved my nose into a unit circle while logarithms devoured the Z’s emerging from my temple. I’d spent this time infusing vital – and not so vital – data into my head during every free period and lunchtime.

It was not uncommon for me to study late into the night. This behavior was described with words such as “dedication” and perseverance” and “studiousness”. The words “stressed”, “sleep-deprived”, and “manic” were seldom uttered.Once I had triumphantly set my pencil down after my last final exam, my alarm clock rang at 5 AM the next morning, and I was whisked from Los Angeles to a conference in New York promoting a healthy, restful lifestyle.

While I had glanced through the headlines of HuffPost’s dedicate Third Metric page during the weeks leading up to the conference, school had held my attention hostage. My expectations of the conference were nearly nonexistent, but I did have a back-of-the-mind vision of a family-and-happiness-are-more-important-than-money-and-power premise. I should have known conference hosts Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski were one step ahead. The conference they had created focused on “redefining success beyond money and power,” but it was clear early on that for the most part, the guests – like the hosts – had already done that.

They defined the “Third Metric” as embracing a healthy coexistence of one’s work life and one’s personal life. I heard how Mayor Richard Daley once let White House advisor Valerie Jarrett leave work early for her daughter’s Halloween parade. As I listened to CEO describe how she once blasted Teddy Pendergrass’s “Wake Up Everybody” on a slow workday, I envisioned how my own creativity might spark in such an environment. I learned from actresses, executives, and neurosurgeons alike that rest and wellbeing are just as dependent on success as success is dependent on rest and wellbeing.

Here I was in New York, a mere 48 hours after I had been sitting in a school hallway, cramming Pythagorean identities into my head, and energy bars into my mouth before my final exam. But now, I was listening to Arianna speak of her own office’s nap rooms and guided breathing exercise breaks led by Joan Witkowski. I suddenly came to three conclusions: First, that if I had known about the power of relaxation months before, my academic labyrinth might have been more easily traversed. Second? Try to work for Arianna Huffington. Or someone like her. Third, I realized that, as the youngest attendee, my role in the evolution of the workplace that the Third Metric strives to propagate, is to bring what I learned into each collaboration in my whatever I career my future brings me. And if I do, perhaps I’ll be able to provide the same guidance to a stressed out high school junior that Arianna and Mika gave to me.

Have tablets fulfilled their destiny?

When tech visionary Steve Jobs revealed the iPad in 2010, he introduced his final creation as a hybrid smartphone and laptop with ereading capabilities. While the innovative genius did not invent the tablet, he actualized the first widespread touch-based computing device, setting the tone and path for many to follow. Some foresaw its arrival as a clear precursor to the laptop’s downfall. The revolutionary innovation included 3G (and later, 4G) capabilities for Netflix watching and Facebook checking but was not capable of making calls, so cellphone manufacturers didn’t lose any sleep over it. The iPad’s ereading faculties caused others to wonder whether it would take the Kindle’s throne as the bestselling ereader in the nation. The iPad thrived, but did not monopolize as Apple’s iPod had. Dozens of manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, and Google mimicked the revolutionary product with their own “do-all” gadgets in many different shapes and sizes. While the tablet is a fun airplane toy for playing Angry Birds, watching movies, and showing off to jealous friends, it is a multi-gadget hybrid sporting inferior qualities of each niche it tries to assume.

Functionally, laptop users are plagued only by the inconveniences of the trackpad opposed to their computer mouse and possible absence of an optical drive when they choose these mobile computers over stationary desktops. Since laptops share similar features with their office-anchored counterparts such as physical keyboards, standard ports (USB, Firewire, MicroSD etc. depending on specific model), and operating systems, there aren’t many major feature absences that force desktop use.
Tablet users are confined to the options of their mobile app markets. Though vast and seemingly limitless, mobile apps don’t match computer applications. While software developers are slowly releasing Android/iOS versions of major applications such as Microsoft Office, tablets are not made for sensitive work files, and each mobile adaptation is inferior to its full version, whether the shortcomings be physical, logistical, or functional.
The touch keyboard has a long way to go. On smartphones, users easily adapt to virtual keyboards because their handheld size makes thumb-typing possible. However, typing is an awkward endeavor even on the smallest cursor-less PCs. The way the average tablet user holds his or her mouseless commodity creates an inelegant mess of thumbs failing to reach the desired key, and stumbling over a few others in the process. While some have mastered the technique, the inadequate simulacra does not begin to challenge the seamlessness of physical keyboards. Android and iOS have pixelized an untransposable physical technological component. For the tablet keyboard to become viable competitor to its inspiration, touch-based operating system developers must return to the drawing board, and create a new, efficient, touch-based typing tool unlike anything consumers have seen before.
The tablet is not a functional equivalent to the laptop. It doesn’t compete physically due to its inability to act as a technological base. It is made for mobility, and its sleek form therefore lacks USB, Firewire, and other standard ports. Tablets simply do not require them due to their mobile nature. Despite apps of many purposes – video editing, photo enhancing, document writing – the tablet is not a sufficient base due to its limited capacity and functions, and therefore fails to accomplish primary uses of the laptop.

The majority of tablets use operating systems like Android, which also run on smartphones. This makes them essentially, large phones unable to make calls. Features unique to tablets versus smartphones are few, and generally insignificant. Their bigger screen can be an advantage to some, but others gripe about the awkward size and weight – too large for the average pocket or purse compartment, yet lacking media productive features that would commeasure it to a laptop and merit a separate carrying bag. The tablet does not replace the smartphone because it fails to achieve its sole purpose: making and receiving calls.

While tablets such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab offer themselves as alternatives to Kindles and Nooks (which succeed the good old-fashioned book), are they really viable alternatives? Tablets are functionally ereaders that can do a whole lot more. However, their numerous other boasted features make them inferior reading devices.
The Kindle Fire may be the star of Amazon’s ereader family, but most Kindle models are considerably more mundane. Kindle Paperwhites, for instance, operate as ereaders and are not made for checking email or playing Fruit Ninja.
What they lack in flash, they compensate for in functionality. The non-Fire Kindles feature an electronic ink screen that reflects light like ordinary paper. Their matte screen is also optimizes crisp, print-like text rather than pixels. Studies show that LCD screens, found on computers, tablets, and tablet-like ereaders like the Nook Color and Kindle Fire, alters the body’s biological clock by suppressing production of melatonin, a hormone critical to normal sleep. In other words, staring at one can keep you awake. This means that iPads may not be ideal for nighttime readers.
Physically, the Kindle is optimal for its primary objective. It weighs only 6-9 ounces compared to 1-4 pound tablets, considerably closer to most books. While its operating system is simple, the ereader delivers phenomenal battery life.
An gadget built for reading accomplishes this task far better than one built for watching movies and surfing the web.

Tablets are fun, but not functional. They may be great for playing Words With Friends or watching 30 Rock, but not quite ideal for composing long emails or working in Quickbooks. Steve’s vision of a smartphone-laptop hybrid was not accomplished. The tablet was certainly not flounder, by any means. It has proven to be a novel, coveted trinket, useful in some forms of education and presentation as well as entertainment. However, a device that completely captures the mobility and sleekness of a smartphone or a book while including the functionality and completeness of a laptop remains a pipe dream.

Never lose your "cellphonography" – Dropbox Camera Upload vs. Google Instant Upload

As cellphones surpass cameras as the most popular picture taking devices, social networks, photo sharing websites, and software companies are inclined to support a medium of photography that pushes even the most advanced and compact point-and-shoot cameras to the side. In the era of smartphones, cellphone pictures are no longer blurry, .3 megapixel shots of your best friend’s newborn nephew. 8-megapixel cameras and dozens of smartphone photo-editing apps place cellphone pictures just underneath photographs taken by sophisticated digital cameras.

Dozens of software companies have developed applications that automatically sync “cellphonography” pictures and videos to the cloud. It is difficult for users to choose just one with so many viable options available. In this article, I will compare the two services that seem to reign over all, Dropbox Camera Upload and Google Instant Upload.

Dropbox Camera Upload
Dropbox is one of the most popular free file synchronization services available, created to allow users to access and edit their files on virtually any internet enabled device. Originally designed to allow users to edit and access current versions of their files from multiple computers, Dropbox has expanded itself to mobile users worldwide, on popular platforms such as iOS and Android.

Smartphone users who have Dropbox accounts need not worry about photos they took on their cellphone’s camera, for the highly acclaimed file synchronization service announced a Camera Upload service early last year. Camera Upload instantly uploads photos and videos taken on smartphones to Dropbox. Users can set whether they would like files to be uploaded using their data plan, Wi-Fi, or either. Or, they can stipulate that only files under 25 MB can be uploaded using their precious data plan.
Instantly after being shot, cellphone pictures are uploaded to Dropbox, and are downloaded onto all of the cellphonographer’s Dropbox-linked computers, and safely stored and accessible in his or her account on Dropbox.com.

Google Instant Upload
It’s not a surprise that Google wanted to take part in the cellphonography revolution. The technological monopoly has inched itself into nearly every nook and cranny of the average internet users’s life, including their vocabulary.

Google Instant Upload is a subfeature of Google’s deserted social networking attempt, Google Plus. Smartphone users who have enabled the “Instant Upload” feature can find their photos either in a private album in the photos tab of their Google Plus account or in their Picasa Web Albums.
Users may set how their photos and videos are uploaded (data plan or Wi-Fi), upload size (original image size or a standard size to save storage), or if they only want their media to upload while the device is charging. While photos are not instantly available on their computers, full sized images can be easily downloaded from the Google Plus website.

There are a handful of options for phone users who wish to automatically save their precious pics. Which one is the best? Let’s compare the two services summarized above.

Features Dropbox Camera Upload and Google Plus share

  • Automatic backing up of cellphone camera pictures and videos
  • Data plan/WiFi use option
  • Uploads available online
Features Unique to Dropbox Camera Upload
  • Immediate syncing to computer’s hard drive
  • No affiliation with social networks
  • More simple retrieval of files
  • User must download Dropbox client onto computer
  • 2.5GB limit to free account
  • No resizing option
Features Unique to Google Instant Upload

  • Nothing to download (files available online)
  • Upload while charging option
  • Upload while roaming networks option
  • Larger, 5GB free account limit
  • Resizing option
  • A small pain to download files
  • Affiliation with Google Plus
While both services are viable options, overall, Dropbox offers simplicity and automatic existence on computers while Google offers more space and options. There is no “better” choice, so it is up to you to decide which service meets your needs, and which preferences you value.

Beneath the digital rock

Let’s back up to the turn of the millenium. The internet was there, but seldom used. Computers were big blocky hunks of silicone that blinked pretty lights. And Apple came out with an mp3 player that could hold five whole gigabytes worth of music! The hottest cellphones looked like bricks. And then slowly, the internet became a utility. Then a necessity. And then the world. Digital music became more common than music on CDs, and records were nearly obsolete by then. And cellphones got smaller and smaller, and then larger and larger until they began to look more like mini-computers.

Caught in a blur by all of this were the folks still using their Olivetti typewriters, replacing ribbons and detangling keys; those sticking by their film cameras, having to readjust every time a film developing shop closed, having their kids buy them a big machine that lit up.

Recently, I tried to contact my friend, Kemma, via a mutual Facebook group. For weeks, I waited for a response assuming her lack of response was due to her minimal use of the popular social network. But when I realized Kemma had logged on since I wrote to her, I wondered why she was ignoring me. When we finally did get in touch, I realized our miscommunication was caused by a simple issue: she didn’t know how to check her Facebook notifications.

Kemma is part of this group who is living underneath a digital rock. While buying her a computer or a fancy smartphone may be a well-meaning gesture, the device and its mind-blowing processor and endless possibilities will mean nothing to her if she doesn’t know that it’s capable of such features in the first place.

I was taken aback learning someone had never heard of Facebook notifications. Clicking on the small globe at the top of the screen is the first thing I do when I log on.

Immediately, I enlightened/overwhelmed Kemma with different ways she could use her phone and computer – ordinary actions that were so obvious to most, it might never have occurred to them they weren’t obvious to everyone. In honor of Kemma and all others under the “digital rock” I present 5 seemingly obvious micro-tutorials.

1. To check your notifications on Facebook, locate the small blue globe located at the top right of your screen. This will show you recent events that may or may not be relevant to you such as comments on pictures and posts, friend suggestions, and event invitations. You may set which notifications you receive right here in Facebook settings.

2. You need not stress your eyes looking through that heavy, possibly outdated dictionary. Instead, access an online dictionary at Dictionary.com.

3. If you want easy access to a website you visit often, you can bookmark it. A bookmark is a shortcut to a specific link on the internet. In order to bookmark a page, go to “Bookmarks” and select “Add Bookmark” or “Bookmark this page” depending on your browser. This will make a shortcut to that site appear underneath your address bar. Instead of typing in the URL, you need only click on your bookmark.

4. If you want to take text from somewhere such as a website or document, and use it in another document or an email, there is no need to retype the text. Instead, you can copy it from its source and paste it into your desired destination.
To copy the text, place your mouse at the beginning of the text, click, and hold as you pull your cursor over the text. It should highlight it. Once all you want to copy is highlighted, unclick your mouse. To copy the highlighted text, you may a) Go to “Edit” and select “Copy” b) Right click and select “Copy” c) Hold down Control+C on your keyboard (Command+C if you are using a Mac)
To paste the text, click your cursor into the place you want the text. Make sure this symbol is blinking in the text input: |
Now, you may a) Go to “Edit” and select “Paste” b) Right click and select “Paste” c) Hold down Control+V on your keyboard (Command+V if you are using a Mac)

5. If you want to revisit a website you recently viewed, but cannot recall its URL (or do not wish to retype it), you can easily view your browser History, or a list of websites you have previously visited.  To view your history, go to the main menu at the top of the screen – it should have menus such as “File” and “Edit” and “View”. One of these is labeled “History”. Simply click on “History” to view your internet history.

Humankind’s shifted ways of functioning can be both confusing and daunting to some. For every one person that raises an eyebrow at the blinking screen in front of them, there are at least ten young ones more than willing to offer a thorough explanation. To the technologically decrepit, I urge you to always ask for help when your own instincts do not prevail. To the competent enlisted to aid them, may you find both patience and luck.

You have the power: Instagram changes Terms of Service due to public outrage

There’s a running joke that “the biggest lie of the universe is ‘I have read and agree to the Terms of Service’.” Because let’s be honest – how many of you actually read the long, bombastic document? Fortunately, enough people do that a sneaky advertisement rights clause Instagram included in its updated ToS did not go unnoticed.

Instagram is a mobile-based photo-sharing social network that allows smartphone users to easily snap and share photos with friends on Instagram and other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. It also includes a variety of filters and borders that allow smartphone photographers to spruce up their pictures for their friends and family. For such a simple idea, it’s been an overwhelming success. Less than a year after it was started in October 2010, Instagram had well over 100 million users and billions of photos on its database. Facebook, the current father/mother/lord over all social networks, wanted in. Again, the simple photo-sharing app defied the odds and was acquired by Facebook for an approximate 1 billion dollars in cash and stock back in April of this year. Of course, Facebook didn’t fork over that kind of money just for kicks. For a while, users wondered what it had in store.

They got their answer that Monday, when Instagram announced a new, updated version of their Terms of Service to take affect January 16, 2013. Through lengthy stipulations on how Facebook and Instagram could use submitted photos, the two companies declared rights to all photos on their website, existing and future uploads alike. This means that Instagram (and its parent company Facebook) would be allowed to use any photos uploaded today, tomorrow, or four months ago, in advertisements without compensating or even notifying the user.

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

A few particularly observant Instagram users found – and were appalled – by this clause, and objections went viral leading to hundreds of deleted Instagram accounts.

Pressured by its valuable users, Instagram was forced to respond. A day after the controversial Terms of Service were released, the company was prepared to make changes and defend their honor. It released a statement implying that it was never its intention to sell or use photos submitted by users. The condescending insinuation was that the users were simply confused when they read the Terms of Service. Co-Founder Ken Systrom blogged that Instagram “heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean.” He promised “to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”

I don’t know about you, but “you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you” sounds pretty straight forward to me. It seems like Instagram admitted they messed up, and want to make amends without taking complete accountability.

However, whatever Instagram initially meant, changes in their Terms of Service are being made because of users’ complaints. The lesson learned is that ultimately, business rely on their customers. Therefore, customers can check the power programs like Instagram have over their users by, in a sense, going on strike. Do not settle on unfair conditions made by companies. Speak out. Your voice could possibly make or break a company, no matter how big it is.

The new iMac: A desktop stuck in a laptop’s body

Throughout the past few years, there has been a surge of mobile technology. From the tablet craze to the swivel-screen laptop, the message is clear: the modern cloud based lifestyle demands thinner and lighter.

Apple contributed to this trend by creating the iPad. While the revolutionary mobile device is controversially flawed, Apple’s influential marketing cleared the path for other tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire.

The Macbook Air received a major update when Apple tried to produce the lightest and sleekest laptop on the market. There were plenty of complaints that it was poorly built and not customizable. Its lack of an optical drive had held back sales in the past, but with the rising necessity of mobility and diminishing use of discs, the Air finally had its time to shine.

Here’s why the public didn’t mind the shortcomings of the iPad and Macbook Air: Most of their owners bought them as secondary machines to complement a main computer sitting at home. When they were sitting at Starbucks, the last thing they needed was an optical drive. Discs could be dealt with on their desktop in their home office. As for customizability, changing up the RAM in an airplane toy or a light machine for checking Facebook was far from critical. Therefore, Apple thrived.

After a whopping 19 months, Apple finally revisited its desktop hardware. However, it returned in the wrong mindset. iFans were expecting a retina display, primary SSD option, and significantly better graphics. In this long-awaited December update, Steve’s elves delivered essentially nothing.

This time around, Apple did what it has done with its Macbook and iOS products during the last few years: increased aesthetic appeal. The new iMac is significantly thinner than its predecessor, and eight pounds lighter. At 12.5 pounds, the iMac is to most desktops as Gary Coleman is to Santa Clause.

But for a desktop, is bling and weight what customers are looking for? In an age where people have a laptop, tablet, and phone, the desktop is home base. It’s where everything important is saved, and expensive single-license software like Photoshop is installed. On their desktop, they import old CDs or hookup record converters to put obscure Greatful Dead albums on iTunes.

Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you care so deeply about what your desktop weighs that you consider this while buying one?

Thought so.

A desktop’s weight doesn’t matter. People don’t constantly pick it up and move it after the initial trip from store to car to desk. A select few will occasionally upgrade the RAM, but that’s about it.

So what was Apple’s aim? Let’s look at its “revolutionary” product’s tagline.

Well, this portrays where Apple’s priorities stand. Looks. Then usability. This allegedly innovative corporation has sacrificed functionality and technological innovation to make its primary desktop computer more physically attractive. Why? Maybe because the majority of its users are swiping their credit cards based off sleekness and glamour, and don’t care to speculate on the meaning of 5400-rpm. But general technological ignorance is a whole other rant that I won’t start. For now, let’s look at what Apple sacrificed for aesthetic appeal.

An internal disc drive
With the introduction of the Mac App Store, Apple no longer relies on discs for revenue. Most of its software sales consist of impulsive downloads. However, just because Apple thinks the optical drive is obsolete doesn’t mean the everyone else does. Surely, the mobile world doesn’t have much use for it anymore. But discs remain a significant device, and the loss of an internal optical drive is devastating to desktop users. The only reason Apple rid its main desktop of this essential feature was to make it thinner. This would make sense if the iMac was a laptop, but desktop users don’t even consider monitor thinness. The main factor for monitors is the size of their screen because that is what desktop users view. Weight is the last of concerns.

The iMac has followed its little brother and distant cousin, the Macbook Air and the iPad, in their non-customizable bodies. More advanced users will no longer be able to open up the back of their desktops to upgrade RAM or replace a hard drive. Since desktops are generally more expensive than laptops, most people purchase them expecting them to last. While an iPod is un-devastatingly replaced when its irreplaceable battery dies, most people don’t replace a desktop for a faulty hard drive. When the Macbook unibody made it more difficult to customize, techies grumbled. When the iPad was released, they rolled their eyes. The Air made them grit their teeth. The iMac was considered the one place non-customizability wouldn’t hit. In December, Apple proved them wrong.

Hard drive downgrade
One aspect of the new iMac Apple loves to brag about is its “Cutting-edge storage options.” But are its storage options really cutting-edge?

The new iMac offers a 1TB (or 1,000GB) hard drive by default. Its predecessor offered 512GB with a 1TB upgrade option. Capacity-wise, the new iMac upped the old. But has it? Here are the former iMac’s specifications.
Upon close examination, you’ll see “5400-rpm” in new iMac’s specs, and “7200-rpm” in the old’s. “Rpm” stands for “revolutions per minute.” Since a hard disk drive is essentially a spinning disk, it does what any disc does – spins. The number that most people ignore indicates how many times per minute it spins. The higher the number, the faster the hard drive. While Apple may have upgraded the capacity on its recent iMac upgrade, it compensated by downgrading hard drive quality far below price range standard. While 5400-rpm hard drives are common nowadays, they tend to reside in $400 computers, not $2000 investments. 
Apple’s 2012 iMac release is an eyebrow-raising disappointment. The iMac is moving in the wrong direction: unnecessary features at the expense of essential aspects of desktops. Hopefully, Apple will learn the difference between a desktop and a laptop before its next update.

How and why to dual boot Ubuntu with Windows

There has been a lot of talk about an Linux distribution called Ubuntu. Ubuntu is one of the most preferred Linux distributions, or Linux “distros” these days. People refer to it as “the best Linux operating system” and a “must have” when in reality, although it is one of the better Linx based operating systems, it is only preferred by the majority of Linux users because it is so user friendly from the sleek graphics to my favorite, Ubuntu Software Centre. While it, like every operating system, has its pros and cons and depending on what you need or want, Ubuntu may not be the best choice for everyone, it is easy which is why a handful of people walk around in “Ubuntu: Linux for humans” t-shirts. You can test Ubuntu on its online demo here!


One of the greatest things about Ubuntu is that it is so customizable. Unlike Windows and certainly unlike Mac OS X, almost everything in Ubuntu can be customized by almost anyone, not just computer geeks. In both the Windows and Mac OS X installation, all you can choose is which partition to install the operating system in, and standard things such as your account name and password.

I have switched to Ubuntu on my laptop, a Toshiba Mini NB205 (a Toshiba netbook), but on my desktop, an iMac, I run Mac OS X and Windows XP Professional (with Boot Camp). As a lifetime Mac and Windows user, I say that Ubuntu is wonderful. For Mac users, it’s not only more customizable (less restrictive) and straightforward in many ways, but there is not need to give up those sleek graphics you’re used to which is a sacrifice users are forced to make when switching to Windows XP (though Windows 7 has fixed that problem in my opinion). There is also Ubuntu Software Centre which gives users access to thousands of Ubuntu applications, free (in addition to anything else on the internet compatible with Linux). Windows users, oh, you guys gain so much by switching to Ubuntu. For those of you who still use Windows XP, the Ubuntu graphics are stunning. Best of all, Ubuntu is free. I recommend to anyone not familiar with Ubuntu to try Ubuntu, and by try, I do not mean install. Burn yourself an Ubuntu USB drive or disc – you will be given two options, try and install. Click try and you will be able to experience Ubuntu with out doing anything to your computer as you are booting off your disc or USB drive.

However, there are drawbacks to using Ubuntu instead of Windows or Mac OS X because software like Quickbooks are not available for Linux. For those who want Ubuntu as well as their existing operating systems, the developers of Ubuntu make it easy to run both on your computer. I will explain how to dual boot any Windows operating system and Ubuntu. Mac users can simply use Boot Camp Assistant and pop in the Ubuntu disk instead of a Windows install disc.

Dual booting Ubuntu with your existing Windows install is simple because Ubuntu comes with a boot loader called GRUB (short for GNU GRand Unified Bootloader). Here is how to dual boot. I am assuming you already have burned an Ubuntu install disc. If not, go to Ubuntu.com for directions and the free Ubuntu download.

  • Boot into Windows (basically, turn your computer on).
  • Insert the Ubuntu disc.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Enter your boot order. This is done by pressing F12 or F2, sometimes 0 depending on the computer.
  • Boot to the CD. If you did not have the boot menu option, go into your BIOS settings (also done by F12, F2, etc. depending on the computer) and change the boot order making “CD/DVD” or something along those lines to first by pressing F6 or F10 depending on the computer. Then, reboot. If this is the case, you must change the boot order returning your hard disk drive (or solid state drive) to first before you reboot your computer during the installation).
  • It will take a while, but you will finally boot into the Ubuntu install. If you like, you can try it without installing it for a minute or two to make sure you really like it. Click install.
  • Proceed with the installation until you get this question: “How do you want to partition the disk?” or something similar.
  • You can either choose the first option (It should be something like: “Resize IDE1 master, partition #1 (hda1)” and use freed space if you have partitioned your hard drive prior to installation, or select “Manually edit partition table” or something like that. Remember the word “Manual” and you’ll be fine. There, you will be able to choose how much of your hard drive you want to dedicate to Ubuntu and how much you want to dedicate to your existing Windows installation.
  • Go on forward and install Ubuntu.

When you turn on your computer, it will boot into GRUB, or a list of operating systems. You can either select your Windows installation or Ubuntu. Ubuntu will be first by default, but it can easily be changed. As I mentioned, Ubuntu is super-customizable.

Good luck, and enjoy Ubuntu!

The Magic of Dropbox

Here is an example of a real steal for all of you Mac, Linux, and Windows users: dropbox.com Dropbox – basically, it lets you sync your files online. This means that you can back up files in case something happens to your computer, and if you on a different computer and make changes to certain documents, the changes will take effect everywhere. It’s so simple.

1. Create an account on Dropbox.com

2. Download Dropbox and install it. While you are setting it up, you will be prompted to log into your account. You’ll be given a Dropbox folder, and everything you put in that will be synced online.

And that’s all! You’ve got Dropbox. Everything you put in your Dropbox folder will be synced online. Now, here’s where you look for a catch. This must be a paid service,right? Yes, it is, but guess what? The basic account (free) gives you an incredibly generous 2GB of space! Two gigabytes! I have about twenty documents in mine right now, and I’m only using up 0.1% of my 2GB.

Connecting Dropbox to other computers 
It is easy to hook all your other computers to Dropbox.com. It’s easy. All you do is download and install Dropbox, and log into your dropbox account. All of your files will appear in your Dropbox folder, and you can edit them and sync them online. The next time you are on another one of your computers with Dropbox (and you are connected to the internet) your files will be updated.

Viewing and restoring previous versions of your files You have been working on a paper for weeks, syncing it to Dropbox every time you edit it. Then one day, dun dun dun… your little sister deletes everything in the document (all your hard work!), types “cheese” in the blank document, and saves it. Since this document is in your Dropbox folder, it automatically syncs to Dropbox online. Oh no! All of your work is gone for good! Or is it?

Don’t worry. Rest assured, your work is safe even though in Dropbox, if you download your document, it just downloads the most recent version – a blank document with “cheese” written on the top. However, Dropbox has you covered. All you need to do is:

1. Log into dropbox.com.

2. Go to the “Files” tab. This is the default, so you should be there already.

3. Hover your mouse over the file victim to your little sister’s wrath.

4. See that arrow pointing down on the right? Click on it and then select “Previous versions”.

5. From here, you can restore your last edit before your sister got to it, or if you want to keep the blank document as well as your last version, just download the previous version and don’t restore it.

And there – your precious work is saved.

Sharing documents/folders
Dropbox provides its users with a shared folder called “Public”. Let’s say I have my Christmas wish list document in my shared folder. I’m a greedy brat, so I want to mail this to all of my friends and family (no, not really!). Because I am so greedy, my wish list is so long that this word document is over 25MB so I can’t send it through my Yahoo! email address. My solution? Dropbox. All I need to do is:
1. Go to dropbox.com and log in.

2. Click on your “Public” folder.

3. Hoover your mouse over the document you want to share, in my case, the one entitled “My Christmas Wish List 2011″.

4. See that triangle in the corner? Click on it and select “Copy public link”. This link is the link that I will send to my friends and family. All they need to do is copy and paste it into their browser and the file will automatically download.

So there it is, Dropbox.com, and be sure to note that if you sign up using my referral link, you will receive 500 MB extra automatically.

Merry Black Friday

Yesterday was Black Friday, a market created “holiday” on which stores are absolutely flooded with consumers, pouncing for special deals on products they may or may not want. Stores such as Best Buy, Target, the Apple Store, and Walmart are packed. Parents claw at the toy racks. But today is Saturday, and the storm has calmed. For those of you who are not brave or willing enough to endure the menacing crowds of Black Friday, there is still hope. Some stores celebrate the entire post-Thanksgiving Day weekend instead of one day. Many online retailers celebrate another market-created holiday, Cyber Monday. This less popularly known day has been used as online retailers’ Black Friday, on which they offer steep discounts for holiday shoppers. All of this excitement can be a little bit overwhelming. Here are some things I learned this Black Friday.

Black Friday Rules:

  1. Don’t buy anything you would not otherwise buy. When you’re in a store, freaking out about the awesome deals, pressed up against a bunch of other people who are also freaking out about the awesome deals, spaz tends to be contagious. Pressure builds up in your head, and you become prone to the mindset: Must have. Only chance. You are led to believe that you need to buy a certain product you’re on the fence about right now, right away. Of course, this impulsivity mindset doesn’t last long – it tends to diminish after you’ve swiped your credit card. It may be helpful to make a list of things you need.
  2. The best deals are the retailers’ worst failures. Usually stores use Black Friday to offload their worst-selling products of the year. Take Samsung. What are their most popular products? Their Galaxy line – the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, their newest smartphone, the Galaxy S3. Although they did offer some sweet deals on their touch devices and computers, their biggest sales were in their TVs. You could grab a TV from Samsung for half off this year! And what did Samsung sell the least of this year? Their TVs. 
  3. Don’t die. Almost every year, we hear about different people who were trampled to death among the chaos and scramble. I vaguely recall one man freezing to death while camping outside of a store this year. Now, that’s just crazy. Talk about materializing Christmas. The holiday season is for you and your family to enjoy each other’s company, and gifts simply enhance the excitement. Is a new TV really worth dying for? In the end, the point of Black Friday is to get a head start on your Christmas shopping. You still have another month before Santa hits town, so stick around and don’t kick the bucket just yet.
Be wise, be productive, be safe.
Good luck!

Top 3 qualms with iOS

You’re watching a TV show, and a commercial comes on with a white background and a shiny tablet in the center of the screen. Magical, it is called. The iPad is one of three devices that runs iOS, Apple’s touch based operating system, a huge hit in the past few years. I could go on and on about my gripes about iOS and Apple, but here are my top three complaints.

1. Restrictions

Like Mac OS X, iOS only works on the devices that Apple wants it to work on – the iPod touch, the iPhone, and the (*coughs*) iPad, all three of which are overpriced like all of Apple’s products. Now, you would suspect that you would be able to customize your new iPad/Pod/Phone for 200-800 dollars. While iOS does give a certain amount of leeway to its users regarding their devices, is its customization really up to par?
Just a few years ago, users gained the ability to change their wallpaper and multitask on their iOS devices. Let’s hear a round of applause – it only took Apple three and a half years to let their users change their backgrounds. Seriously? And this may just be me being cynical, but I have a slight suspicion that part of the reason Apple added those features was because the number of people jailbreaking the iPhones, iPods, and new iPads. Just a thought.
Users can also only download apps from Apple’s App Store. This is standard for devices/operating systems such as iOS. Android, for example, is limited to the Google Play app store. The Apple app store and Android app store have a similar number of apps, but as of May 2012, the Android store had more free apps than the iOS App store did. However, there are a few differences between Android and Apple. Firstly, hardware. There are dozens of devices that run Android made by an assortment of different brands – Motorola, Samsung, Acer, Archos, HTC, Dell, and so many more. Therefore, Android devices are more reasonably priced because there is competition. However, Apple has a monopoly on iOS. They are the only manufacturers legally allowed to use iOS on their products. If I want iOS on a phone, I am limited to one phone from one manufacturer. Android? I have hundreds of options, varying in size, internal specifications, and price.

2. Objective-C and other limitations

The restrictions of iOS don’t end with the user. If you want to develop and iPhone app, unless you want to go through a series of complications, buying expensive programs/services, etc. you are going to need to learn Objective-C. Now, while Objective-C may be, in a sense, a programming language “native” to Apple, iOS developers could have easily let Apple developers write apps in languages that they already know. Java, for instance, is a popular language and it would have been fine for iPhone apps. But no, Apple wants to force everyone who is interested in developing iPhone apps to learn this old language that is all but obsolete these days. One thing is for sure – Objective-C is possibly one of the worst language choices on Apple’s part. In fact, blogger Simon Brocklehurst made a list of alternative programming languages. In other words, here is a list of languages ordered from most to least popular with developers that Apple could have used:
1. Java
2. C
3. Visual Basic
4. PHP
5. C++
6. Perl
7. Python
8. C#
9. Ruby
10. Delphi
11. JavaScript
12. D
13. PL/SQL
14. SAS
15. Pascal
16. Lisp/Scheme
17. FoxPro/xBase
19. Ada
20. ColdFusion
21. Logo
22. Lua
23. ActionScript
24. Fortran
25. RPG
27. Prolog
28. Awk
29. Transact-SQL
30. ABAP
31. LabView
32. Erlang
33. Groovy
34. Smalltalk

Objective-C would have been 38th on the list. There’s a language called “Groovy” and one called “Smalltalk”. Few have even heard of those. Yet still, the fact is that the programming languages “LabView” and “Erlang” are more popular (or were before iOS’s introduction, for that matter) than Objective-C.
The language is not the only limitation when it comes to being an Apple developer. All developers must use Xcode, Apple’s one and only IDE. Sorry, but Apple doesn’t go for Eclipse, Komodo Edit, or TextMate or other popular IDEs. It’s all Xcode. To add insult to injury, Xcode can also only be installed on a Mac. So for all of you who aren’t willing to fork over seven hundred or a thousand bucks for a computer you could get much cheaper with Windows, or if you don’t feel like buying a new computer to develop for Apple when your current non-Mac works well, or for those with the iBook or even newish Macbook Pros running Leopard: I’m sorry, but that ain’t gonna cut it.

3. Compatibility with previous generations of hardware. Let me tell you a story. My cousin bought the iPhone about a year ago, the 8GB 3G released with the 3GS. She’s not big on technology, so she didn’t mind having a 3G – anything would have looked fine to her after her Motorola Razor. But then…dun dun dun…

The iPhone 4 was released as well as iOS 4.0. She didn’t know any better, and of course her iTunes was begging her to – she updated. Suddenly, she realized that although she had upgraded to iOS 4.0, she didn’t have the ability to customize her wallpaper or multitask. Absolutely nothing had changed except for that the dock looked slightly different and if she went to “About” in general settings it would way “4.0”.
Well, she thought to herself, I didn’t lose anything.
So she unplugged her iPhone and went about her everyday life, but with iOS 4.0. At first she didn’t notice any changes, but about midday, she realized that her iPhone, which she had charged overnight the night before, had ten percent battery. After calling a friend, it was dead.
She dropped me a line since I was her designated “tech emergency” contact. Perplexed, I Googled her problem and realized that 3G users all over the world were experiencing this issue. For some, it was so bad that their battery life was dropping at one percentage per minute.
But the message was clear: to Apple, the 3G was and is useless. Apple was selling this now-piece of-crap literally days before, advertising it as “innovative” and “groundbreaking.”

Apple is now on iOS 6. The iPod touch is on its sixth generation, and my third generation touch is officially obsolete. I bought my iPod touch in early 2010. I paid three hundred dollars for it, and two years later I can no longer update it. I see people walking around with their new shiny iPhones and iPod touches and other iShiny devices, and I just think, “Wait two years, and it’ll be considered a worthless piece of iCrap.”