Thursday, August 26, 2010

Google Voice - Great addition to Gmail

Yesterday Google has enabled voice calling from your Gmail account. I gave it a try today and it works really well. It is convenient, easy and calling U.S. and Canada cell phones/land lines is free till the end of the year. This is definitely a great addition to gmail and will bring in more users. The call quality is very good. I used a Netbook to call my cell phone and the audio was excellent. Google mentioned that this feature is only available for U.S. users, but many people outside of U.S. said it already worked for them. If Google will play its cards right they can have a great product that will generate revenue in the future. VOIP is a lucrative market especially if you already have a user base of millions of people.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to school computer shopping.

There are only a few more weeks before school begins again and technology companies are gearing up for one of the most busy seasons of the year.

Even though having a laptop is not mandatory for college or university studies, students often justify the purchase by saying that they need it desperately for school. I have worked in several large computer stores that have back to school specials for students and let me tell you that its all about revenue and scamming the customer. These large businesses want to extract as much money as possible from customers and are willing to go the distance in confusing students and their parents in order to make that extra profit. For example, I was told shamelessly straight to my face when buying a netbook that the company does not make a lot of money from the sale of a laptop and that I should purchase something else on top.

This is why all associates are forced to upsell and skew the truth. These people tell you that you need a CD created in order for your computer to have a backup. This extra service is only $60. For extra $100 they will setup your computer to be "ready to use". This is a major scam because anyone can do this setup by themselves with only a few clicks of the mouse when they boot up their system for the first time. My wife was once told that she can get a recovery disc created by them for only $100, as the laptop she was purchasing did not come with one. When she asked if she could do it herself, she was told that it definitely wasn't possible, but that she can bring the laptop back later on and it can still be done. When she got home and booted the computer for the first time, it gave her an option to burn a recovery CD at the end.

However, even if you do not buy into the "setup your computer" argument the associate will tell you that there are tons of viruses out there that will destroy your precious data and you will have to buy antivirus. But don't worry because its on special for just $80. Another tactic they like to use is to sell you extended warranty that is about $120 to $250. This enables you to bring the computer back to the place you bought it instead of shipping it to the manufacturer. Just a side note: Manufacturers have a great service and will replace your computer for free if its still in warranty and shipping is paid by them. I shipped several laptops back to various manufacturers and the service is very fast, professional and efficient.

After pressuring you to hand over hundreds of dollars for a laptop or a netbook, they try to sell you optical drives, mice, cases and many other peripherals. Many times I have overheard associates lying to customers about what they need just to sell the extra package so that they can get a bonus/commission or just to get their manager of their backs. Even though associates in these large stores try to be polite and smile to your face, they are scamming you for hundreds of dollars out of your hard earned money just because you are unaware about what you really need. And if that fails, many stores increase the price of the product and try to sell you the whole "better value" package, without having the option to buy the computer without those unnecessary "upgrades".

Therefore, this back to school season do some serious research about what you need and don't need and do not be pressured into buying additional things that you might regret later or realize that it was a waste of your money. Majority of these businesses are making huge profits on the ignorance of many individuals about technology and computers.

A few good examples that you should think about might include: Do students really need the latest MacBook Pro for $2000 to type essays that can be done on a Netbook or a regular laptop? Do you need to pay additional $130 for Microsoft Office if Openoffice is free to use and download? Do you need firewall and Antivirus if you are smart about what files to open and follow some simple security rules? Or you can download AVG Free Anti-virus or Avast for free and many universities provide you with anti-virus for free while you are their student. Do you need additional warranty for $200 if shipping to a manufacturer is free and easily set up online? How long do you expect your laptop to last you? Do you really need to pay hundreds of dollars for an extended warranty if your netbook cost $350 and it is cheaper to buy a new one than keep fixing an old one in 3 years? Try to see through manipulative associates in big computer stores that try to scam you for hundreds of dollars and make you think that you need every one of the things they offer or your computer will blow up. Play it smart and use the money you save for your books or tuition instead because those things are not getting any cheaper....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Revolution OS - A Linux documentary

A great documentary created in 2001 by J.T.S. Moore about GNU/Linux, Open Source and the free software movement. Grab a comfy chair and a snack and enjoy the film.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Linux is Political!

I have had so many different discussions with people about which computer operating system is the best. Most people that I talk to swear by the one they use. This generally means Windows because it comes pre-installed on people's machines when they first buy them.

If your debate is about real technical issues, then Linux, Windows and Mac OS all have their strengths and weaknesses. It seems that all three operating systems are great to use depending on what the user needs. However, I do think that an operating system should not be judged solely on its technical strengths and weaknesses but also on its ideology and the way it is developed. This leads us into the debate of proprietary and open source software. Most people that I talk to have very little understanding about what is open source. They do not understand the concept until I further explain it to them or they research it on their own.  Initially they have a lot of questions that they want answered. How can the open source community produce an operating system that is free? Who "owns" Linux? Where do I get it and how come Linux does not advertise as extensively as Apple or Microsoft? People have a hard time understanding that there is no single company behind Linux. They don't understand that Linux cannot be monopolized like Windows or Mac OS because no single entity owns the Linux source code. When these people realize that there is much more to Linux than its technical strengths and weaknesses, then they really understand its potential to change the software industry.

Open Source is an innovative concept to create software without copyrights and restrictions. Because of the way Linux is developed it is not only an operating system but a political movement as well. No more Bill Gates or Steve Jobs dictating to you what kind of functions you should have or not have and what you as a user need or do not need. Linux gives you pure freedom to download, copy, modify and distribute. This fantastic concept puts Linux far ahead of Windows and Mac OS and when people realize its potential implications they are amazed. The computer software business is no longer what it used to be as it continuously changes and adapts. No more restrictions, limitations and monopolies but only freedom. A lot of individuals are tired of large corporations who try to limit the end user and dictate the terms of use to them. These people use Linux not only because it has many great features and strengths but also as a political statement against the status quo.

Software does not have to be expensive, limiting and restrictive. Using Linux as an operating system is a political statement that tells the large corporations and the creators of restrictive proprietary software that there is a different way.