Time to Upgrade


The iMac I’m using right now is old. It was manufactured in 2013. It’s getting slower on boot up, and the more time I spend in a given logon session the slower it gets, even without a lot of apps running.

I’m unhappy with Apple for not upgrading this model in quite a while. I’m not going to spend $2,000 or more to replace the iMac with a machine that’s running 2016 / 2017 technology. It was a big disappointment that their late October announcement did not mention any new iMacs.

Oh wait a minute – they did release a new iMac within the last year. It’s the iMac PRO, and the PRO part at the end of the name means it starts at $4,999. It’s targeted to professionals in the movie, arts, architecture, and design businesses.

By not announcing a new home or business iMac model by now, I think Tim Cook and his financial guys are forgetting the working class grunts and their Apple hardware and software purchases that helped Apple obtain their current financial status.

But that’s just my disappointment talking. In all fairness, they did announce a new Mac Mini PRO. The media tacked on the PRO, not Apple. My first Apple desktop was a Mini and was a great little box I used for years. The new Mini has many configuration options and a nice set of features. It allows for the building of a Mini beast which is what I did, aiming for it to have as long a life as possible. I’ll be ordering it soon, but without their $700, or $1,300 LG monitor. I’m sure I can get the monitor I need on the net for a little over half those prices.

I’m admitting to being too locked into Apple with my iPhone, iPad, iMac, Mac Air, and iCloud. I’ve severed my relationship with Microsoft for good (for the second time). I have a Lenovo laptop that now runs Linux instead of the Window’s 10 it came with. The Window’s updates got very unpredictable and often made messes it took me hours to cleanup, sometimes a day or more. I have minimal experience with Linux but early investigation tells me getting it to do all the things I do on the Apple platform may be a pipe dream. But as I said, I have a lot to learn about Linux and what software is out there for it.

My future plan is to not replace my iPhone when it is no longer keeping up with the other devices, and instead purchase an iPad with cellular. I may end up getting tired of lugging the iPad around all the time to not miss calls, so getting a low cost cell phone and plan providing only unlimited text and calls may be another solution.

Some IOS Apps I Use Everyday

These are some of the Apple IOS apps that help keep an old man organized, on time, and secured.  I basically run my life off my iPhone, and these three apps help.  I have other apps I use daily and will follow up with some of them in future posts, in case they may be of interest to you.

GoodReader by Good.iWare Inc
UPDATE 02/03/2019: GoodReader 5 was released recently and has a more robust interface, more security options, and other new features which make it well worth the wait. Every computing platform has its “must have, does it all app”, and for IOS, it’s this one.  It houses files of all types in a standard folder and file structure, and I can transfer or download any of them to and from my desktops and laptops.  I set up a sync arrangement within the app I can run at will to keep a folder on my iMac identical to a folder in GoodReader.  It is a powerful PDF annotator and updater.  I use an in-app security option to have all content in the app encrypted at the hardware level (requiring a password or finger print to get into the app), and selected folders protected by a different password (same fingerprint) as well.  Check this app out in the App Store for a full list of its capabilities.  It’s well worth the $5.

TickTick by Appest Limited
This apps manages my simple ToDo list in a very workable layout.  It has all the usual functionality of a basic ToDo app (date and time settings, alerts, repeats, priority, etc) that you can choose to use or not.  It provides a helpful widget with useful features, and TickTick can manage multiple lists of tasks.  I’m using the free version which caps at 99 tasks (way more than I need), but if you’re still active in the corporate world or your own business, you can upgrade to the Pro version.  This adds almost unlimited lists and tasks, collaboration with others, attachments, a calendar interface, and more.  Note that even the free version provides syncing of the tasks and lists with other IOS devices and the free Mac OS X version of the App, as well as Android devices and a web interface.  Keep me honest and check this app out in the App Store for all the details.  Feature for feature, I think it’s among the best in class.

Enpass Password Manager by Sinew Software Systems Private Limited
UPDATE 02/03/2019: I can no longer recommend this password management app. A highly promoted “new” version was recently placed into the App Store, and it proved to be a beta release, with promoted features missing or unworkable. Most noticeable was that the ability to house your password database locally was missing. I am now running my previous password manager, mSecure, which also came out with a new release around the same time. It works very well, has cross platform support, still supports a local password DB, and syncs your other devices over your WiFi network.

Lenovo Ideapad 100S

UPDATE: Unfortunately, with the speed of products arriving and going off the market, the Lenova Ideapad 100s is no longer available. I recently upgraded this guy to Linux Mint 19.0 Cinnamon, leaving the Microsoft updates madness behind. A happy camper, with a snappy machine to help learn more of the Linux world, and as a bonus, a Microsoft free home.

I had a Fusion (VMWare) virtual machine running Windows 7 Pro living in my iMac, that I upgraded to the free Windows 10 Pro.  As this was my last Windows instance in the house I decided that if I was going to have only one Windows machine, it might as well be the latest version.

Windows 10 did run in the virtual environment but not as well as Windows 7.  It took longer to start up, ran somewhat slower, and glitches with the display and sound drivers which did not occur with Windows 7 were annoying.  I don’t rule out that living in the iMac had a lot to do with the poor driver behavior.  Around this same time, I happened to cruise the laptop aisles at Best Buy and saw laptops under $300 that seemed to have enough oomph to support the kind of things I would use a Windows lap top for.

I ended up purchasing a Lenovo Ideapad with Windows 10 Home edition installed, for about $245.  It has a 14″ screen, 2 GB memory, a 64 GB SSD (solid state drive), a microSD slot, 3 USB ports (2 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.00), and an HDMI port.  Also included are a Celeron Dual Core CPU, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11 a/c WiFi connectivity.  The purchase also qualifies for a free 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal if you sign up for it within the first 6 months of ownership.

I’ve had this machine for about 2 months and I like it.  Its main uses up to now include getting to know Windows 10, cruising the web and updating web sites, and getting back into coding with Windows Powershell and VBScript.  It performs all these functions in a snappy fashion and starts up from the power off status or a sleep fairly quickly.  

Admittedly, this is not a gamer platform, or suitable for applications needing high CPU usage or more than 2 GB memory, but for web surfing, email, and other activities where almost all the heavy lifting is happening on a web server somewhere else, the sturdy and light Lenova Ideapad 100S is a great machine for the price.

Seven Months with the Amazon Fire HD 6

As stated near the top of the original Fire HD 6 post a short time after taking delivery, my main interest in purchasing the device was to see how far the Android platform had progressed since my last experience with it years ago. That experience was with a Motorola cell phone.

I was very pleased with the phone itself but too early in my two year contract, the operating system and applications proved unreliable and problematic. This deteriorated to the state to where I had 6 months or better left in that contract and a few apps that came with the device (and others) were no longer usable. Most annoying were the camera and photo gallery apps. After taking a picture and exiting the camera app, the pic was no longer available anywhere on the phone. The photo gallery app presented no photos. All this was definitely related to OS and app updates delivered automatically.

During that 6 month period before my contract expired I tried contacting tech support through my cell service provider. After reporting my issues, the hardware I was on, and the OS version, their response was that it was time to upgrade the phone. This really pissed me off, as I could not believe a phone I already paid for needed to be replaced at my expense before the contract it came with expired.

So my first experience with Android was not pleasant.

To get back to the Fire HD 6, I must say not all that much has changed. The hardware itself has no issues. But the OS and applications are apparently still a product of an environment lacking controls needed to prevent the scenarios I described above. I am 7 months into ownership of this device and it too has become problematic and unreliable.

I have it set to take all updates automatically, for both the OS and apps, as recommended. I regularly monitor and approve those app updates which wait for user acknowledgement due to security access changes required.

For the last month or longer the device reboots itself regularly, without warning. I have not been unable to tie this to a specific app. It has happened at times when I power up the device, make sure no apps are loaded, and just let it sit. Once in this scenario I saw it boot 3 times within 15 minutes, which to me rules out the issue being related to receiving OS updates.

Another complaint, NOT related to the OS, is about vendors of popular apps claiming to provide both Apple and Android platform support. Too many times the Android version available is many updates and features behind its Apple version, which has caused problems as well when sharing with other smart devices. Words With Friends is one example as I can no longer use the Fire HD 6 to play that game with Apple users on the latest version. Regardless of the app genre, if you say you support multiple platforms, this situation is not acceptable.

In closing, I fully admit that I am currently a more “dumb user” than I used to be, by choice. I am retired from a technical environment as a software simian, and expect that if I obtained the right tools, literature, and experience with the Android environment, I could possibly be helpful in diagnosing some of my issues. But I am happily out of that game, and this adventure back into Android was purposely undertaken as a typical citizen who just expects technology purchased to work, and keep working.

If extra cash is available in the future, say maybe 4 to 5 years out, I might give Android another shot. But look out – I’ll probably be a LOT dumber by then.