hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music, tech

Posts Tagged ‘apple’

A Review of Dealers of Lightning

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer AgeDealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve heard of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) for years now and of its importance, but this book really drove home just what a critical place PARC was for the development of the personal computer. It was an excellent, excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Back in the mid-60s, Xerox decided they wanted to compete with IBM and AT&T by developing their own research labs in the hopes of winning prestige and a possible Nobel or two, just like Bell Labs did. They set PARC up with a virtually unlimited budget and told the director he could hire whomever he wanted. Pake, the director, had heard of one Bob Taylor, formerly of ARPA, the precursor of the Internet, and hired him to head his computer lab. Taylor instilled a fierce commitment in his employees, but had a very adversarial management style and made a lot of enemies around the company. Another key hire was Alan Kay, a programmer with a dream of creating laptops and one day tablets (30 years before they ever came out) which would be so easy to program, kids could do it. Soon PARC had the best and the brightest from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Utah, etc. They came from all over, from the best computer science programs. And there were no deadlines and nothing to produce – it was like a giant think tank where you could just follow your dreams to see where they’d lead with unlimited funding. For the most part.

By the late 60s, one of the programmers had produced a mouse, ancient by our current standards, but radical by theirs. Also, they were producing GUI operating systems for point and click possibilities. By the mid to late 70s, the inventers had invented a graphical user interface, an operating system, overlapping windows, a text editor (word processor), a programming language, software, Ethernet for networking, a mouse, display, keyboard, audio, and a laser printer, which would be the only thing Xerox would go on to make money with. And that’s the crux of the situation. Xerox didn’t know what it had. Xerox did nothing with PARC. PARC embarrassed Xerox. The wizards at corporate were so far behind the times that change of that enormity just unnerved them too much to act, so they didn’t. In fact, they got rid of the R&D people who had created PARC, brought in new managers to run PARC, got rid of Bob Taylor (who had gotten too big for his britches), prompting a ton of resignations from his team members, and lost a lot of people who went on to form companies like 3Com, Adobe, SGI, and others. Xerox could have OWNED computing and they blew it! They literally could have been Microsoft, IBM, and Apple rolled into one and they blew it. The author tries to shield them from this criticism. He tries to say that as a copier company, they weren’t equipped to sell computers. Well, why invest in researching them, then? He tried to say you’d have to retrain 100,000 salesmen. Well, do it. Piss poor excuses, in my opinion. Xerox has no excuse for blowing things the way they did.

One last thing. I really enjoyed the chapter on the visit by Steve Jobs. Of course, it’s a famous story about how Jobs visited PARC, saw what they had, ripped them off, put everything in the Mac, and made a killing. Part of which is true. However, with his first visit, he was given just a main demo given anyone who would visit. Apparently he wasn’t impressed and he had the ear of the Xerox CEO, who was investing in Apple, so PARC got a call telling them to show Apple everything. Jobs and his crew went back again and this time got more, but not everything. Somehow Jobs knew this, and before Jobs was out of the building, the Xerox CEO was on the phone to PARC telling them to show them everything. This elicited a great deal of stress and agony in some Xerox employees, who thought they were giving away the store. (They were.) So Jobs went back and apparently went nuts when he saw the GUI interface, and his engineers also appreciated the mouse and networking, etc, et al. And so the Mac was born.

This book isn’t perfect. There are a ton of people to keep up with. It gets hard. Sometimes the book gets a little boring. But all in all, if you’re into computers and into the development of the personal computer, the story of how the first one was built before Steve Wozniak came along and claimed to do it is pretty awesome and the story of Xerox PARC is pretty awe inspiring. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Dogfight

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 3, 2015

Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a RevolutionDogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Rarely has a book incensed me the way this one has. First of all, let me announce that I am an iPhone lover and Android hater. No need to take pot shots at me. Just the facts. If you don’t like it, read something else. Anyway, I thought this book was going to be a reasonably objective look into the war between Apple and Google on smart phones and tablets. Boy, was I wrong. The author lets us know right away where he stands. He starts by mocking Apple and Steve Jobs as they get set to introduce the iPhone to the public, making them look like total dunces and then pulling one over on the public’s eyes with a brilliant demo. Then, poor Google. They loved the iPhone. They loved Apple. So imagine how hurt they were when Jobs and Apple got wind of their development of the Android and didn’t appreciate it, of how badly their feelings were hurt. They even went for walks with Jobs assuring him that they weren’t going to go ahead with Android — only to do it. And this was somehow justified by the author. The author also went out of his way to explain that Apple has never sued Google, just the phone and tablet manufacturers. Okay. Nonetheless, Apple has the patents and it’s winning. This is a hatchet job disguised as journalism and it pisses me off. It also pisses me off that I spent good money on this damn book thinking I was getting one thing when in fact I was getting something else. If I wanted to read something by a Google cheerleader, I would have bought something else. So too, if I had wanted to read of a Jobs smear job on Google, I would have bought that — but I didn’t. I wanted something balanced. This was not. So I didn’t finish it. I made it to the seventh chapter before giving up. I’m trying to get my blood pressure down now. I can’t believe what a crock this book is. What a Google lover this author is. How open software trumps closed systems every time, which isn’t necessarily the case — look at the facts. Of all of the books I’ve not recommended, this comes in at the top of my list. Most definitely not recommended!

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A Review of iWoz

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 26, 2015

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing ItiWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I loved Woz! He seems like a really cool guy. So I was shocked — shocked — at the many instances of overt hostility toward this book by so many reviewers. Man, they hate it! They think the writing is terrible, even though it has a professional co-author. They think he’s arrogant and conceited. They think he over-inflates his worth. I couldn’t disagree more. I enjoyed the writing. I thought it was intentionally conversational and easy to read. What do people want — a damn textbook??? It makes tech easy for anyone to understand and I think that’s good. As to his arrogance, when you’ve done the things he has done — and very few people have — you have a right to be arrogant, in my opinion. He was the youngest HAM operator is the world, quite possibly. He very likely invented the personal computer and changed everyone’s lives forever. He built, solely, one of the greatest computers ever — the Apple II. He invented the universal remote. And he’s not entitled to be proud of his achievements? Give me a break! If I had done this, I’d sure to tooting my own horn, that’s for certain. And as for the few dissenters claiming he didn’t invent the personal computer, it’s plausible there were earlier personal computers, such as the Altair, but hobbyists had to put them together themselves, they didn’t have keyboards or screens — just lights and buttons. He really did create the personal computer as we know it. Of course, he didn’t get where he got without the help of Steve Jobs, but if anyone was ever an egomaniac, it was Jobs, not Woz. Jobs was the biggest narcissist ever seen, I believe. I don’t know how Woz could have worked with him for so long. I enjoyed reading about his upbringing, about his early phone phreaking, about constructing and selling blue boxes, about his educational efforts, about his reluctance to start a new company, about his desire to remain a geek forever and never go into management, his thoughts about other people both in and out of the Apple world. I loved this book! I again just don’t understand why so many people hate it. It makes no sense to me. This is what I want out of an autobiography — a reader-friendly, true life account of an interesting person’s life and exploits. Excellent. Strongly recommended.

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A Review of Steve Jobs

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 12, 2015

Steve JobsSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderfully written book on a very complex individual, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and of Pixar. Apparently, he’s one of the greatest geniuses in history, revolutionizing entire industries and changing billions of lives. Among his revolutions include the personal computer (Macs), graphic design, the music industry and how we get our music (iTunes and iPods), cell phones, and tablets, as well as computer animated films. I mean, he was an amazing genius, a once in a century person. However, at the same time, he was the most narcissistic, entitled, ASSHOLE in the history of the universe, with a monster temper, no filters for other people, and the greatest DICKWEED on the planet. I couldn’t believe what I read about him. He screwed countless people over, including Steve Wozniak, his partner at Apple and one of the nicest people around, his CEOs, his board members, tons of his employees, his enemies — everyone. He viewed himself as a counterculture revolutionary, yet become a monstrously rich multi-billionaire with his own jet plane and mansions. He got pulled over for doing 100 one day on the highway. The cop told him if he got pulled over again, he’d go to jail. As soon as the cop left, he resumed doing 100. He never had a license plate on his cars. He thought he was above that and that standard rules didn’t apply to him. Instead of parking in the CEO spot at Apple, he parked in not one, but two (straddling) disabled parking spaces, just to be a jerk. When he was getting his liver transplant at a hospital in Memphis, he ordered something like 18 smoothies for him to taste test before finding one that was decent and sending the rest back. He’d order fresh juice at a restaurant and send it back relentlessly because it wasn’t fresh enough. He screwed some of his original Apple employees over (and best friends) by giving some stock options and others none. He’d go to restaurants when they were closed and demand they open and serve him and then he’d order something that wasn’t even on the menu. He was a bulimic, lifelong vegan who made everyone cater to his tastes. He drank carrot juice for months and ate nothing but carrots and turned orange. He initially thought his fruit diet was good enough to ward off body odors and didn’t use deodorant or anything like it and stunk like crazy until Apple went public and the board forced him to start showering once a week. He thought in terms of black and white. Everything was either a winner or total shit. Most everything was total shit and he would tell you that to your face. No filter. He was envious of Woz and was responsible for him leaving the company. He fought with people all the time. He was given up for adoption as a baby and always felt abandoned, but when he and his girlfriend had a baby girl, he turned his back on them completely until the state of California forced him to take a paternity test which proved he was the father and then forced him to start paying alimony. He was an obsessive design freak who believed in completely closed and integrated systems, which made for great products, but hurt his market share and his company’s bottom line. He had to have the best of everything. He never did anything people told him, not even as a child. His educators gave up trying to force him to do his schoolwork and let him do whatever he wanted. He went ballistic when Bill Gates ripped Apple off with Windows and then with everything else (like the Zune — remember that?), yet he himself ripped off the geniuses at Xerox PARC, getting from them three things — the graphical user interface (GUI) look of the operating system, the mouse, and networking, which he put into the Mac, transforming personal computers forever. I could go on and on, but I don’t have to. Isaacson already did. Just read his book. Jobs was a fascinating person and he created amazing things, but at what cost? Burned, tortured lives, careers thrown away, people discarded, no rules observed. I felt sad upon reading of his early passing, but if there is a hell, he’s definitely in it now. And I don’t feel too badly about that. I, for one, won’t say “RIP” to Steve Jobs. I’m glad to have and use and enjoy his creations, but I’m also glad he’s no longer on earth. Highly recommended book.

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Random

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 1, 2013

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a non-book review here, so I thought I’d write down a few thoughts. My father has been dead three months now. That’s still very hard to believe. His gravestone was just put in, so Gretchen and I will be going to Knoxville to view it soon. Last weekend, we went down to Atlanta to visit my old friend Dee, another friend Paul (and his wife), and a new friend, all at a sit down dinner that Dee worked her butt off to prepare and she did a great job. We had a good time, but we chose to drive back to Chattanooga that night instead of spending the night, and it was a grueling drive back. There were no lights on the freeway and no reflectors in the pavement, so it was really hard to see.

Meanwhile, my Steelers suck, my Vols aren’t doing that great, and my Farragut Admirals are having a rough year. At least the Penguins are off to a decent start. Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring. That’s good.

Gretchen and I signed up for Obamacare. Even though it’s getting a bad rap, we’re tentatively excited about it. Gretchen doesn’t have insurance, and my family’s been paying $715 a month for my COBRA, which is about to run out. With this new policy, we’ll have a $1,000 deductible (shared), no co-pays, both of us covered for a total of $485 a month. All but one of my meds are covered, I think. It’s been a hassle getting signed up, yes, but hopefully this will work out well.

I started a new blog. It’s called Scott’s Book Reviews and it’s just going to be my book reviews, not all of which I post here. It can be found on Blogger. I hope to add all of my old book reviews and then add to it over time as I continue to read and review books. It’ll also include books I review that don’t appear on Goodreads. Frankly, I don’t know why I started it, as it does seem a little redundant I’ll admit, but I wanted to get them all under one roof, so to speak.

I keep seeing politicians saying things that sound stupid, particularly Ted Cruz. I’m sick of both parties, frankly, and wish we could just start over again. Actually, many years ago when I was a young kid, I lived in Canada with my parents. If we had the money — and could endure the cold — we’d probably move to Canada to get the hell out of this crazy ass country. The right wing nut jobs are dragging this country down, IMO, and the religious right is right there with them. Which makes me so glad for my church. I joined the Episcopal church last month, after attending one here with Gretchen for the past year and a half. It’s pretty much exactly what we’re looking for in a church, especially with no evangelicals, so that’s nice. No praise music, good sermons, saying the peace. It’s all good.

On a different note, Apple is driving me nuts! I downloaded iOS 7.0.3 for my iPhone and it hosed it completely! When I went to install the backup, since I had to restore to factory settings, virtually nothing came through. It took me the better part of a day to get my phone working again. Very frustrating. Gretchen had the same thing happen to her  with iOS 7. Meanwhile, my iMac’s cordless keyboard keeps cutting out and it’s driving me insane! I can’t type two sentences without having to stop and get it working again. I’m hoping new batteries will take care of it. If not, I may have to get a corded keyboard, assuming I can find one that works with Apple products.

Well, I have a brutal headache, so I’m going to cut this short now. Sorry about that. But I’ve just been rambling anyway, so who cares, right? Cheers!

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A Review of iPhone Google Music Apps

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 26, 2012

I have a lot of music. I have a lot of CDs and I have all of them stored on my iMac. Along with those, I have just as many CDs that I’ve downloaded from iTunes over the years. I have about 1,000 albums all told. I also have a 32 GB iPhone 4. I have crammed as much music as I can on it, but at best, it can only hold about 100 of my albums. I therefore miss out on playing a lot of my music and that’s really bothered me. So call me late to the party, but I recently came across Google Music at play.google.com. It’s a free cloud-based service that imitates iTunes in many ways and is probably viewed as a direct competitor to Apple. Strangely, though, when you sign up with your Google account, you have to enter a credit card number, but it goes on to charge you $0. I’m not sure what the meaning behind that is, and I really don’t like it, but for the time being I guess it’s acceptable. Some of the benefits of Google Music are obvious. You can listen to all of your music any time you want anywhere you want, as long as you have an Internet connection or access to “the cloud.” Unlike Amazon, which I understand doesn’t have much storage capacity, Google Music allows for storage of up to 20,000 songs. Friends, that’s a lot of songs. After I opened my account, I then told the app on my web browser to start uploading all of my albums from iTunes, and it started doing just that. I was surprised to find I only had about 11,000 songs, so I could probably have 1,800 albums before getting close to Google’s limit. That was a pleasant surprise. It took the better part of a day to upload everything, and to my minor frustration, it didn’t actually upload all of my albums. It missed about 50 of them, give or take. I don’t know why. It also on occasion showed different album covers than what iTunes shows for cover art, but quite often Google Music got it right when iTunes got it wrong. Interesting.

Now, the real reason for opening up my new account … I had to get an iPhone app for Google Music so I could listen to all of my albums on my iPhone. Exciting! To my disappointment, however, there aren’t many Google Music app choices in the iTunes store. I counted about four, although I guess I could have missed one somewhere. I’ve downloaded these four and want to report here what my reactions are to them. They’re mixed and I’m not entirely satisfied with any one of them.

First, I downloaded GoMusic. It seemed easy enough to use. As was the case with all four apps, I had to enter my Google name and password and it downloaded my entire library to the app. Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long at all to download close to 11,000 songs to any of these apps. At first I was pleased with GoMusic. Until it started doing something which I found both annoying and inexplicable — it would cut off songs before they were over. Why? And not on every one either. No rhyme or reason to it. I became annoyed, so I looked for another one.

Next, I downloaded gMusic. gMusic seemed pretty cool. It has an easy menu, from which you can choose playlists, artists, songs, albums, genres, etc. Pretty exhaustive. And thankfully, this one didn’t cut songs off at the end! Good, right? Wrong. After using it for several hours, which really drained my battery, it stopped working. Just froze. Don’t know why. I was disappointed, because there really weren’t too many more choices out there.

Next I downloaded an aesthetically pleasing one called Melodies. It too seemed promising. Like the others, you can choose from playlists, artists, songs, albums, and more. One feature I found enjoyable was beside each of the albums was a miniature icon of the album. The others just had lists. I thought this was cool. I started using it extensively, but to my bitter disappointment found that, like GoMusic, it cuts off various songs before they end. It’s really distracting when that happens.

Finally, today I’ve tried yet another: Blackbird. Blackbird had uneven reviews on iTunes, with many people talking about its glitches and crashes. However, when it worked, people seemed pretty happy with it. This one took the longest to download my Google Music library, but it wasn’t too bad. One feature I really like about this one is it includes your cloud-based Google Music AND any music you have stored on your iPhone’s iPod. Since I have a number of albums on my phone that never got uploaded to Google Music, this was a big plus, having both. However, Blackbird is not without the aforementioned glitches. You can choose from playlists, artists, albums, and songs like the others, but when I choose “Albums,” nothing happens. They simply don’t appear. So I have to choose from artists or songs in alphabetical order, which is okay I suppose, but not ideal. I would like to have a working Album feature. Also, to my immense irritation, this app also cuts some songs off prematurely. It seems that three of these four apps do that and I have no idea why.

Google Music seems like a pretty good service, and if you’re an iPhone owner, you’ll need one of these apps. I hope I’ve given some insight into what they’re like. There really isn’t a lot separating them from each other, but I think I’ve decided to go with Blackbird because of the fact that it draws from my Google Music account and my phone’s iPod. I really like that. This way, I can delete albums from my phone that are in my Google Music account and upload albums that never made it into my Google Music account. Best of both worlds. I think I’ve given up on GoMusic, while if gMusic worked, I’d use it the most. Melodies is attractive, but ultimately lacking. Download some of these for your iPhone and let me know what you think. Cheers!

____________________________________________________________________

EDIT: 5:40 PM

OK, less than 30 minutes after writing this review, Blackbird stopped playing mid-song and crashed. Upon opening it, I have no songs in my library there anymore. There are no songs, artists, or albums. WTF? Man, these four apps SUCK!!! I guess I’ll go back to using Melodies and living with having the ends of my songs cut off. *sigh*

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iTunes 11

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 19, 2012

I just HATE the new iTunes 11! I’m a longtime iPhone (and iPod) user, and after decades of owning PCs, two years ago I bought an iMac and have loved it. iTunes has been OK. Perhaps a bit better than Windows Media Player. I’ve learned to live with it, although it creeps me out knowing this is the only way I can synch my phone. What if the app gets corrupted?

Well, with the release of the new version of  iTunes a few days ago, it sure seems to have been corrupted. It used to take me 5 minutes to synch my iPod, 10 for my iPhone. Yesterday it took me 3 1/2 hours! That’s right, nearly four hours. That’s freakin’ ridiculous!!! It wouldn’t install new versions of downloaded apps to my phone. I had to try three times to install eight apps. One never did and I had to delete it. I tried downloading and installing from the phone’s app store, but it simply showed the apps were already installing (i guess via iTunes) and nothing was accomplished. At one point, iTunes just hung for over 30 minutes and I was forced to close out the program, thus endangering my phone. Thankfully, it seemed OK afterwards.

I’m trying again right now, hoping it’ll be better. It’s not. I started the process 40 minutes ago and it’s been hanging on Step 5, “waiting for items to copy,” for the past 25 minutes. Nothing’s happening. If I close out now, I will risk damaging my phone, but I can’t have my phone inoperable for hours. That’s just stupid and unrealistic! If this continues, I’ll be forced to buy a damn Android phone, although I don’t know how that would work on my Mac. Does anyone out there know the answer to that? How would I synch an Android phone on a Mac? Oh, and when it does get around to copying my new apps to the phone, it takes 10 to 25 minutes per app. It used to take one. It’s copying Google+ right now. I promise it’ll be copying the same app at 6 AM, 22 minutes from now.

What the hell happened to iTunes, Apple??? Why and how did you break it? Why did you think you were improving it when you destroyed it? I’m just bitching about how it works. I haven’t even touched on the changes to the interface, which I hate, as well as the changes to the store, which I also hate. I used to be able to see how many times I’d listened to certain songs by clicking on the album’s icon and looking. No longer. Now I have to find that particular song in the long list of songs, listed in alphabetical order. I guess I can do that, but it’s now a hassle. I have nearly 1,000 albums! I don’t know how many songs I have, but it’s a lot. Now I have to work to find stuff. Now I have to work to synch, to buy, to find, to download, to listen. It’s a nightmare! Why break something that’s not broken? Apple — you suck!!!

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iOS6 Disaster!

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 24, 2012

IOS6: “iTunes cannot sync apps to the iPhone ‘Scott’s iPhone’ because the apps installed on the iPhone could not be determined.”

WTF???!!! This is after 1 hour & 15 minutes of downloading & installing the new OS on my phone. Now I can’t freaking sync it. Great. WTF am I supposed to do now??? I have a useless iPhone, in terms of ever syncing it again. This really sucks. It won’t recognize a single app on my phone….

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Mac External Hard Drives

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 28, 2012

I’m so ticked at manufacturers of external (backup) hard drives made for Macs! All I want is a portable hard drive to back my system up on. Is that too much to ask for? Macs have Time Capsule, but it’s not really portable, and even though it does backups, it’s more of a wireless router. It’s expensive and heavy. I have one and don’t use it.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought a 500 GB Seagate external hard drive for $90. I brought it home, looking forward to using its built in software to back up my system and do automatic backups whenever changes are made. That’s the whole point. The packaging said it was for PCs and Macs. It also said you don’t have to reformat it for Macs like you do with some products. Well, first, I DID have to reformat the hard drive because it was a Mac! I then installed the software and there was no place at all in the software’s interface which would have enabled me to back up my computer, let alone schedule any, etc. I was ticked. I called Seagate. They told me I needed Time Capsule, that their product couldn’t do what I wanted it to do. Um, false advertising, misleading packaging, whatever — I was TICKED!!! I took it back to Best Buy. I then bought a My Passport from Western Digital. I bought it because it was specifically for Macs. Same size, same price. I brought it home, hooked it up, and looked for a software interface to appear. Nothing. I downloaded the user manual and it said I should have gotten a screen about Time Capsule. I didn’t. I called Western Digital. The person I spoke with barely spoke English and had such a thick accent, I could hardly understand him. I did understand the following though: My Passport only works with Time Capsule — another external hard drive. Why the hell would I need two? I mean, what the hell is wrong with these people? I said that it said nothing on the packaging about that and that if it had, I wouldn’t have bought it. The rep was pretty speechless to that. I mean, what do you say, right? So, basically I have a hard drive that I can drag and drop folders and files onto and it will save them, but it can never update anything on its own and I have no way of tracking this stuff, so I wouldn’t know when to replace a file or folder with an updated one. It obviously can’t automatically back up my system. It’s pretty damn useless. I’ve moved some things on to it today, but really, if/when I ever update the stuff I moved, I won’t know if/when to update the hard drive because I won’t have remembered it. Isn’t that stupid as hell? I swear, isn’t packaging regulated? Shouldn’t both manufacturers have put on their packaging that their products couldn’t work without Apple’s own Time Capsule? What a joke. See if I ever buy another one of their products….

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Mr Blog » Blog Archive » I’m calling BS on “Android Dominance” meme

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 2, 2012

My friend, David B, calls BS on Android’s alleged dominance. Read on…

Mr Blog » Blog Archive » I’m calling BS on “Android Dominance” meme.

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