Tag Archives: PC

Trying Out Flock (Again)


I first gave Flock a try in the middle of last year. The mixture of a Firefox base, and out of the box support for a number of the social networking sites that I use regularly seemed quite attractive. Unfortunately although I liked what I saw, it didn’t really feel ready for the big time back then. It crashed quite a few times, and although the integration with sites like Flickr was fairly good, it wasn’t enough to get me to switch.

Over the intervening months I’ve continued to keep my copy updated, but in general Firefox has been my browser of choice, however on hearing about the release of version 1.0, and also reading some of the positive reaction, for example here and here, the time seemed right to give it another go, and I’ve been running it as my main browser for the past couple of days.

So far the impression has been pretty good. Whilst it is true that I could get a lot of the functionality into Firefox through extensions, here everything just works out of the box. There is a bit of initial setup, pointing the browser at all your various accounts, but in general that is just a question of going to the relevant web page and logging on. There is a nice sidebar that keeps track of when contacts on sites like Flickr upload pictures, and then if I want to see what has been added I can just click the media button and their photo stream appears across the top of the window. In amongst all of that, it’s just really stable, not a hiccup so far.

So what are the downsides? The biggest is if you’re making significant use of a site that’s not really supported. In my case that is Google Reader that I use for all my feed reading as it maintains a consistent state across any of the methods by which I read the feeds, be that iPod Touch, mobile phone, work PC or Mac at home. Whilst Flock apparently has a pretty good feed reader, I’m not using it – the feed functionality has been set to subscribe to feeds in Google Reader instead. To get me using the built in feed reader, it will really need to be able to operate as a front end to Google Reader to ensure that everything is kept in sync.

The other significant part of the application I haven’t used as yet is the blog editor, primarily because I’m quite happy using Ecto instead. Although I know I’m not using all of the features of that client, I’m perfectly happy using it to type blog postings, although I guess I may give the Flock client a go at some point in the future.

So should you be giving Flock a go? Certainly if you spend a lot of time on the social networking sites it is worth a look. Also if you’ve been having problems with Firefox you might have better luck with it as although it is based on Firefox code, it has diverged from that codebase in a couple of areas, so you may find you feel more comfortable with Flock rather than Firefox. I’ve currently got it set as my default browser, so we’ll see how things go with it over the next few days. If you fancy giving it a go, the install can be downloaded from www.flock.com.

The Annual Mac Attack from PC Pro

Last year it was Vista v MacOS X that compared a shipping version of MacOS X with a beta version of Vista, this time around, PC Pro has rolled out “32 Reasons Why PC’s are Better Than Macsâ€? as it’s annual cover article bashing the Mac, and what a pretty pointless waste of paper it is too – however it is a further example of PC Pro’s schizophrenic relationship with the Mac.

Point number one is “Service Packs Don’t Cost £90â€? which is wheeling out their argument from last year that the MacOS X upgrades are service packs, and it then rolls through the familiar selection of PC owner grumbles including the one button mouse, which of course isn’t, but Apple defaults the Mighty Mouse to a single button configuration. Insecurity pops up too, with the standard PC retort that PC’s are perfectly secure if you get hold of a decent anti-virus application. They also pad out the list a bit with grumbles about the Mac startup sound, version numbers of MacOS X, and one whole item of the 32 is devoted to a whinge about Steve Jobs! In terms of the interface grumbles and ‘it’s not intuitive’ arguments that pepper the list, most boil down to the fact that it doesn’t work the same way as Windows – which means that anyone with a lot of Windows experience is still back to feeling like a novice trying to use a Mac. For example, the single mouse button doesn’t bother long term Mac users as everything that is on the right-click menu is able to be carried out elsewhere anyway. The menus being at the top of the screen is seen as consistent to Mac users, and so the list goes on. The article also waves Office 2007 as an advantage because Mac users are having to wait for Office 2008 for compatibility with some features. Of course as a look back over the releases will show, Microsoft always operates like this, and Office 2008 will bring new features that aren’t available on Office 2007 that will be included in the next PC release. Some of the points are just plain wrong. Number 28 compares memory handling, unfortunately taking a pop at the Classic MacOS memory handling and claiming that Mac applications crash from lack of memory. Certainly the old MacOS Memory Management was lousy, but certainly I’ve had no such problems with MacOS X.

To find the reason for this latest effort, you have to take a look at the editors column at the front of the magazine – it seems that Tim Danton is a little upset by the Get a Mac adverts, and is finding that the office Mac’s used to put the magazine together are crashing. I have to say that some of the Mac faithful are getting a bit fed up with them too, with even the occasional Mac magazine suggesting that a change in advertising would be a good idea. With regards to his unreliable office Mac’s he doesn’t say what they are actually running, or what age the machines are, certainly they could still be running MacOS 9 which is still widely used in the publishing industry. As to why they bother with these periodic efforts, I really don’t know. It’s true to say that the numbers of Mac owners are rising, but the numbers are millions behind the numbers of PC’s, and there isn’t any real chance of the numbers overtaking. Maybe it is this PC Pro Schizophrenia, as the magazine finds themselves giving good reviews to Mac’s they have to do these big Mac bashing articles to balance out!

However, whatever the article may say, it doesn’t change my experiences. Sat in front of me is a recent PC, and a similarly aged Mac. Both are running the latest versions of their respective operating systems. This, like most things I do at home is being done on the Mac because it is just plain more reliable, and just works. Compare this to the PC’s. As you know, I’ve got a love hate relationship with Vista on my laptop. Driver wise it is better supported, but the machine is noticeably more sluggish since I installed Vista, and, as I discovered on the Time and Talents day, more unreliable too. What I need in a home computer is something that is reliable and stable, and I’ve got that in the Mac. True I could probably build a PC that is as reliable with a bit of work, and by picking the right combination of hardware and software, but why bother when you can buy a Mac off the shelf that meets my needs?

To round off though, even PC Pro has to concede the one thing that sets the Mac apart. The article finishes off with highlighting the one thing that a Mac can do that a PC can’t, and the reason why a number of Microsoft staff are now running Mac’s. Whilst there are hacks to get MacOS X running on a PC, the Mac is the only official way to get the current big three operating systems, Windows, MacOS X and Linux running on the same machine, and schizophrenic to the last, PC Pro shows you how, even trumpeting the stability of of MacOS X when running four virtual PC’s and three virtual Linux boxes simultaneously…

Update: PC Pro are already starting to get feedback over this on their forum
– expect more when this issue hits news stands! It is worth noting that last time around they ended up defending themselves on their letters page.

Also, for a more detailed analysis, take a look at a point-by-point rebuttal over at themak.org. The first part is here, with the second part here, and the third and final part here.

Giving Flock a Try


You may have spotted the announcement of a first beta release of Flock. I gave one of the pre-beta versions a try out a few months back, but ultimately stuck with Firefox as my primary browser due to the lack of stability with the pre-beta software. However this new version of Flock promises to be better.

Under the covers, Flock is based on Firefox. What makes it different is that it integrates with a number of services that I make use of such as del.icio.us, Flickr and Technorati. It also includes the ability to post to a blog straight from the browser, and a multi-item clipboard similar to many that turn up in programming tools and word processors.

So far it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. The Mac version crashed several times at annoying moments, so I’m back with Firefox for the moment. PC wise it seems a bit more stable, and since I don’t tend to do as much with the browser on the PC, I’m still using Flock. I haven’t tried out the blogging tools, as Ecto does me just fine. Having said that, I suspect it might come in useful for a quick post now and again. The del.icio.us integration is okay, but I have to say that I can find my way around the existing del.icio.us button I have on the toolbar in Firefox.

I have to say that the part that has impressed me the most so far is the Flickr top bar, which is very nice and smooth, and is also able to pull out pictures from other photostreams on Flickr – having said that, it’s still not impressing me enough to suggest that Flock would be my browser of choice. To be honest on current impressions it isn’t doing enough to differentiate itself and make it stand out from Firefox and a good selection of extensions.

New Apple Mac Advertising

Apple have always had a reputation for memorable advertising, with campaigns such as the iPod campaigns being almost instantly recognisable.

Recently they’ve started a new campaign, with these two characters, one of whom is a Mac, the other of whom is a PC. Now if you are a PC user, especially one without much of a sense of humour, then I suspect you won’t find the adverts funny in the slightest, and I guess if you’ve seen them are even now working up a list of the ways in which you think that the adverts are wrong and misleading. However if you are a Mac user, then I suspect you’ll find them really quite amusing, certainly Beth and myself had a good few laughs watching them through.

It is also worth noting that as well as being amusing, I also think the adverts hit several of the right buttons with regards to points which should be made, but have been missed in the past. For example the fact that Microsoft Office is available (indeed started life) on a Mac is made in two of them. It also makes the point that iTunes and the iPod – familiar to many on the PC, integrate into the larger iLife suite on the Mac.

Anyway, the blurb that goes with the adverts can be found on the ‘Get a Mac‘ page on the Apple site, or alternatively you can cut straight to all the ads on this page where they are available to view right up to HD quality.

Sometimes it is Good to be Reminded

Craig Murphy has posted a great article highlighting the general lack of concern home PC users have over security under the title “PC security is not the first thing on the mind of a home user�.

He is absolutely right, PC’s are sold, and most people buy them in the same way as they buy anything else like a TV, a kettle or even a car. They expect the PC to sit there, allow them to read their e-mail, write a few letters and just work, in the same way that they expect that their kettle won’t suddenly burst into flames. Essentially with all of them they are bought to just work. The description of what happens is spot on too – the free security software never gets extended, and people put up with a lot – I know of people who quite happily clicked through about 20 porn filled pop-up windows to get to a browser window to do their online banking, without even considering what else could be on the machine onto which they are typing all their important financial details. I’ve also known a number of people who maintain that they don’t need anti-virus or security software because they don’t view dodgy sites, and don’t open attachments from unknown sources – all of them have ultimately found out to their cost that their are nasties on the Internet now that will transfer onto a PC without any intervention at all from the user, and generally ended up having to spend a lot of time and/or money getting their machines sorted out.

In fact, in general I tend to find that many people don’t start taking PC security seriously until they have had a problem like this. However, it’s not too difficult to protect yourself. Craig has some good advice and recommendations for both paid for, and free alternatives for the various essential bits of software that you need before you let your PC near the Internet. I also strongly back up his advice to go get a proper router instead of using a USB based ADSL connection. The added protection by having this extra layer between you and the internet makes a big difference.

Of course, the one suggestion I would make that Craig wouldn’t, is to consider whether you really need a PC at all. Want to read some e-mail, browse the web, do your online banking and write a few letters? You do all of those on a Mac – I do – our PC gets used for games mainly, everything else is on the Mac. Go along to somewhere with knowledgeable staff, like John Lewis or even better one of the six Apple Stores around the country to see one in action. If you can’t get one of those, get hold of a Mac magazine such as Mac Format or MacWorld – you’re even going to be able to pick up a Mac from Tesco now! Of course, I’d still recommend getting hold of a virus checker, and following Craig’s good practice, even with a Mac, but currently it’s a much safer platform to work with, and certainly not buried under nearly so much of the spyware and viruses that attack PC’s.