Friday Linkapalooza — September 19, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

The Apple iPhone 6 and 6+ are available in stores today. A number of critics are weighing in on both phones.

Not to be left out, Amazon has announced two new additions—the Voyage, and a touchscreen Kindle—to it’s line of Kindle e-readers.

Ringly is a line of high fashion rings that can connect to your smartphone and let you know if you have a text or email message.

The Palate smart grill claims to be able to cook just about any kind of food, and can be controlled by your smartphone.

CURRENT EVENTS

“What does the Chief Technology Officer of a country do?”

British schools are beginning to teach kids coding—code is the language programmers use to write computer programs—as young as age five.

Apple has announced that they will no longer unlock customers’ iPhones and iPads at the request of government officials.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

A French biotechnology company called Carmat has announced that they have fabricated the latest artificial heart, the first to combine synthetic and organic materials.

Can technology play a part in the future of chronic disease patients and their disease self-management?

The Sleepio smartphone app hopes to improve users’ sleep patterns.

ARTS & CULTURE

Here are some fascinating images of ordinary objects as they appear under a microscope.

A songwriter has created an original song using the YouTube videos of other musicians. The effect is really cool. Give it a listen:

A flutist playing in a competition successfully completes her performance—even after a butterfly lands on her face mid-song.

JUST FOR FUN…

How about some adorable Dachshund puppies playing with a GoPro camera?

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The Beginnings of CBS

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In the 1920s, the Columbia Phonograph Company also had a branch for manufacturing records: the aptly named Columbia Records. In 1927, Columbia invested in the United Independent Broadcasters network, a new radio network based in Chicago. The network was then renamed the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System; the newly renamed network went live 87 years ago today: September 18, 1927. That first public airing included a performance by the Howard Barlow Orchestra.

Running the network was a costly venture, however, and it was only a matter of months—before Christmas 1927, actually—that the Columbia Phonographic Company wanted to pull out. The network’s founded, Arthur Judson, sold everything to the owners of a another network; those owners placed William Paley as president. Paley shortened the name to “Columbia Broadcasting System”, which we know today as CBS.

In its early years under Paley, CBS would move its headquarters to Brooklyn. Paley was able to stablize the network’s finances as well as its web of affiliates within his first year of leadership: CBS had 47 affiliate stations across the country, and nearly $5,000,000 in gross earnings.

CBS quickly became—and would remain—a mainstay of American radio. In addition to his keen business sense, Paley had a taste for talent and good entertainment. Under his leadership, CBS became a haven for many talented celebrities: George Burns and Grace Allen; Al Jolson; Jack Benny; Kate Smith; and a very young Bing Crosby.

CBS was hugely popular and successful in the 1930s, home to a new brand of serial drama: the soap opera. In an interesting turn of fate, CBS would, 10 years after its creation, purchase the American Record Corporation, who at that time in 1938 was the parent company of Columbia Records. 

CBS would continue its popularity in the 1940s, the golden age of American radio, and even through the 1950s, when radio began to lose its footing to the rise of television. Today, CBS is a network powerhouse, popular with television audiences for its range of drama and comedy, sporting events, and news coverage.

And to think it almost didn’t happen back in September 1927…

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Great Travel Apps for When You’re on the Road

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Over the summer, we’ve introduced you to several great smartphone apps that can be a help when you’re traveling: apps that help you book your trip, as well as apps that keep track of your schedule. As fall approaches, we’ll leave you with just a few more to think about, either if you’re planning a holiday vacation in the upcoming months or, like us, you’re already missing the long, sunny days of summer. Today we’ll look at some free apps that can help you while on the road.

TripAdvisor logo

TripAdvisor – Free – Available on Android, iOS, Windows and Web

TripAdvisor is a must-have travel app. This is one of the most popular apps when it comes to user reviews. Whether you’re in an unfamiliar state or visiting another country, you can find reviews and ratings on hotels, restaurants, transportation, history, architecture and attractions from people who have been there. There is nothing more powerful then learning from someone else experience. I use this app even when I’m not traveling to see if a new restaurant near to me has a good rating. This app provides easy to read, interactive maps that use your mobile device’s GPS to detect your location and point you in the right direction. The app works offline so you can download city information before you leave home base in case you don’t have WiFi or limited data usage. This app covers the most popular attractions a given area, but is not necessarily going to help you find that hidden gem on the road less traveled.

Foodspotting logo

Foodspotting – Free – Available on Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry and Web

The Foodspotting app allows you to discover popular local dishes or favorite classics. It’s like the Yelp of the food world. It provides photos of the food and rating from other users and food experts. Foodspotting allows you find a restaurant that serves unique cuisine alphabetically, by category or location, or by customer ratings. This app has interactive maps to help you find the food you desires. If you’re in China but have a craving for a good old American cheeseburger, this app can help you find it. You can even see what your friends are eating. If you’re a food lover, this is a must-have app.

Google Goggles logo

Google Goggles – Free – Available on Android and iOS

Google Goggles lets you search the Web using photos that you’ve taken on your mobile phone. Looking up at a beautiful building, and have no idea what it is? Simply open up Google Goggles and point your camera at the building in question and, within moments, a list of articles will come up touching on your building: its history, ownership, materials, etc. This also works with statues, monuments, parks, fountains, barcodes or QR codes, a product, a popular image, a painting—virtually any object at which you can point your camera. Goggles can also read text in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Turkish, and translate it into other languages in case you’re staring at something in a foreign language. If you’re traveling outside the country, this makes looking up information on just about anything a snap.

WiFi Finder logo

WiFi Finder – Free – Available on Android and iOS

WiFi Finder lets you scan for wireless Internet (WiFi) hotspots near you. You can search for public WiFi anywhere in the world (you’d be surprised how many places have it). This app will give you WiFi hotspot details like location and the provider type. It provides you with call hotspots as well. The app includes a map that will also give directions to the close WiFi. It uses your GPS location to find WiFi locations that are close to you. You might think, “If I can’t get online how am I supposed to use this locating service?” But WiFi Finder has you covered, giving you the ability to download an offline database for the area you’re going to be in. So even if you don’t have a connection you’re still able to find the nearest wireless hotspot. This is a very handy app.

Google Maps logo

Google Maps – Free – Available on Android, iOS, Windows, Blackberry and Web

Google Maps is easily the best mapping app out there. It features incredibly accurate maps that are extremely detailed. It can also keep you updated on traffic, construction, accidents, or anything else that might cause delays on the road. It can also provide detailed indoor and outdoor images of your destination so you can recognize it upon arrival. Google Maps offers real-time transit information like bus and train routes with timetables. It has voice-guided GPS navigation for walking, biking, and driving. The Explore feature points out places to eat, drink, shop, and sleep, and even suggests entertainment as you travel. This app allows you to save unlimited maps for use offline which can come in handy if you lose cell phone signal. Never lose your way with this app, no matter where in the world you are.

Have questions about a particular app? Or do you have a favorite travel app that has been a lifesaver when you’re on the road? Be sure to leave a comment and let us know!

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iTOK Tech Tips: Quickly Shut Down Your PC

iTOK Tech Tuesday

This simple tip will help you shut down your computer quickly and effortlessly.

First things first, return to your desktop by navigating your mouse to your wallpaper and clicking once. If you can’t see your desktop wallpaper, Hold down the Windows key and tap the letter D.

When you’re back on your desktop, hold down the Alt key and hit the F4 key—it’s one of the function keys at the very top of your keyboard.

A dropdown menu will appear at the center of your screen. You don’t even need to select “Shut Down” from the menu; it’s already selected for you. Just click “OK” and your computer will power itself off. Simple as that.

Check back for more great tech tips from your friends at iTOK.

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Fun YouTube Secrets

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Everyone loves YouTube. I know I do. You can find just about anything you ever wanted to watch. Here are a couple of jaw-dropping stats for you.

• 6 billion hours of video is watched every month on YouTube; that’s about an hour of video for everyone in the world.

• Every minute, over 100 hours of video are uploaded.

• YouTube is available in 61 countries and 61 languages.

I watch YouTube videos every day you could call me a YouTube junkie! Maybe I listen to a song I can’t find anywhere. You can learn how to skin and filet a catfish, or just watch some sports bloopers. As popular as YouTube is, I find myself learning new things about the site every day. Today I’ll share some of the fun secrets I’ve found. Some you may know; others might surprise you.

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Sharing a video – I know this one is probably the most obvious to you avid YouTubers, but for those that aren’t, it’s pretty simple to share a video. Under every video there is a share button. If you click on that button, you can share a video several different ways. You can click on any icon for a social media site and login— Presto!, your video is shared. You can also copy the link directly under those icons and paste it to social media, word document, or email to provide a link to that video. You can also embed a video on a website really easily by clicking on the embed tab then copy the string of text and pasting it on your page. YouTube has taken all the work out of it: all you have to do is copy and paste. Look below at the embedded video on this article.

Play video in slow motion – Did you know you can watch any YouTube video in slow motion? Just hold down the space bar and the video will start to play at a much slower speed. Just hitting the spacebar without holding it will pause the video; hitting it again will start it playing again. 

Keyboard shortcut – Besides hitting the space to pause, play, and slow your video, you can also use the left arrow key to rewind or the right arrow key to fast forward. The up and down arrow keys control the volume.

Use only your keyboard – YouTube has a feature called Lean Back. This allows you to control everything with your keyboard. The site has a interface that allows you to search for video using nothing but your arrow and enter keys. There also a sidebar on this site that lets you look at specific topics like sports, gaming, music, news, comedy and much more. Just click here to try it out.

Most popular videos – This is one of the best ways to find the best videos on YouTube. This chart system show video on the amount of views, ratings and comments. It’s the easiest way to find the latest videos by letting other people do all the work of filtering through millions of video to find the best. Click here to get to the chart page.

Play the Snake Game – This is a great feature that not many people know about. The Snake Game is a simple and fun computer game that has been around since 1970; it even has a Wikipedia entry. I played this for hours years ago, and it was a fun surprise to find it embedded into YouTube. This comes in handy if a video is taking a while to load because your Internet is acting funny. While a video is playing or paused simply hold the left arrow key down for a second then hit the up arrow. This will activate the game on the video screen, and you see the dotted snake moving across the screen and you control it with the arrow keys. 

These are just a few of my favorite tricks on YouTube. There are plenty of others. Have you learned any favorite YouTube tricks? Let us know below!

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Friday Linkapalooza — September 12, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

This week, Apple introduced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which offer a number of exciting smartphone features. But even more exciting is the fact that Apple has entered the wearables fray with the Apple Watch.

French tech company Withings is developing the Home device, a camera that uses video and sensors to track activity in your home.

TB Groupe has designed a new set of kitchen knives—the Furtif Evercut knives—coated in titanium-carbide, intended to make them last 300 times longer than plain steel.

CURRENT EVENTS

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is implementing a biometric ID card program.

California is on its way to being the first state to ban the use of single-use plastic shopping bags.

Airlines are using technology to improve how they sense and interact with bad weather in the skies.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

Engineers are using 3D printing technology to create functional prosthetics for kids—with some fun superhero flair.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral, raising funding for research and making for some of the most popular videos on social media this year.

ARTS & CULTURE

Archaeologists have discovered that the neolithic monument Stonehenge may actually be part of something even bigger and more impressive.

Have you ever wondered just what goes into making a wonderful box of Crayola crayons? Look no further.

Geophysicist Alexander Gerst, currently stationed on the International Space Station, took some amazing photographs of clouds from above rather than below. Check them out.

JUST FOR FUN…

Need a DJ for your next big party? These kittens may just fit the bill… If they aren’t already booked.

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Using CDs and DVDs with Your Computer

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Most computers have optical drives capable of reading and writing various types of CDs and DVDs. These drives can allow you to listen to music CDs or watch movies. Depending on the type of drive you have, you can create your own music CD, create a data backup of programs or files, and even burn your own movie. When you start looking at all the different drives and types of discs, it can be a bit confusing; there are a lot of associated terms and abbreviations. So today we’ll take a look at some of those terms.

Readable – Means you can only read the information on the disc, but can’t

Writeable – Means you can burn (write or place) data, music, or video on a disc.

Burn – The process of writing data to a disc. It’s referred to as burn because it a laser is used to burn the information on the disc.

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If you have the icon above on your computer’s disc drive, you can only read the data on a CD. An example is listening to a music CD or load software from a Cd bought at a store.

CD R logo

If you have the icon above on your computer’s disc drive, you can read and write CDs. An example is listening to a music CD or burn music to a CD.

CD RW logo

If you have the icon above on your computer’s disc drive, you can read and write CDs. Delete the information on the CD and rewrite data as many times as you like.

DVD logo

If you have this icon on your drive, you can read DVDs. An example would be watching a DVD movie bought from store.

DVD RW logo

If you have this icon on your drive, you can read and write DVDs. Delete the information on the DVD and rewrite data as many times as you like. An example is watching a DVD movie, burning a movie to DVD and deleting the DVD and burning a different movie to it.
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If you have this icon on your drive you can read Blu-ray discs. An example would be watching a HD Blu-ray movie.

Disc Types

CD – Compact Disc. These are CDs that can be used to read or write data. Compact Disc can hold about 700MB data.

DVD – Digital Versatile Disc. DVDs can be used to read or write data, and have more space than CDs. A typical DVD can hold about 4.7GB of data.

BD – Blu-ray Disc. An example is a Blu-ray movie. BD can hold about 25GB of data.

Associated Abbreviations

-ROM – Stand for Read Only Memory. A ROM disc can only be viewed or read. An example is a music CD bought from a store or a DVD Movie bought from store. This type of disc cannot be written to.

-R – Stands for Recordable. You can write to this disk once. After they have been written on they become a –ROM disc only readable.

-RW – Stands for Rewritable. You can write to this disk then erase it and write to it again. Typical it can be erased and reused 1,000 times and last around 50-100 years.

-DL – Stand for Double or (dual) Layer. Double layer disc have twice as much disc space then a normal disk.

Any type of disc can be paired with an abbreviation. For example: you had a CD-RW you would have a CD that you can write, then erase it and rewrite over it up to 1,000 times. If you had BD-R you would have a Blu-ray that you could write to once and then it would become a ROM disc.

Discs can be used for many different things and are handy tools. CD-R and CD-RW discs are great for smaller amounts of data storage: music, photos, and documents. DVD-R and DVD-RW discs are typically used for movies, long-term data backup, and to transport larger amounts of data. Since these discs are relatively cheap and the drive is already built into your computer, it’s a good idea to be familiar with them and how they work.

Questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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What Is Uber?

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There is been a lot of buzz lately about Uber. They have been in the news recently for both good and bad reasons. So what is uber? Uber is a minicab service that’s taking the world by storm. It started in 2009 in San Francisco and has quickly moved across the globe, now with locations in 70 cities.

Uber is a web-based service that allows you to connect with a driver that will pick you up and take you anywhere you want to go for a fee. All you need is a smartphone with their app to start using the service. Uber does not consider there self a taxi service, but rather a ride-share service. There a lot of argument right now if that’s true. So exactly how does Uber work?

With Uber you can either go online on your computer, or download their smartphone app from either iTunes or the Google Play Store. When you sign up you will need to give them your credit card number. This service does not use cash, which as seen as a benefit to most.

When you open the app, your location is pinpointed with GPS on your smart phone. The next step is choosing your car. Typically they have 5 choices available, but they all follow a basic rule: the nicer the car, the more expensive the ride. Here are the choices:

Uber X — This might be a hybrid or a smaller car
Taxi – This is your typical taxi cab
Black — This will be a high end sedan
SUV — This is an SUV that will seat up to 6
Lux — High-end luxury car.

Once you choose your car, the app gives you an estimated price for the trip. You then see a picture of your driver, their name, and a phone number. It then tells you how long it will be before your ride arrives. It will also show where your car is on a map relative to where you are.

After you get to your destination there is no need to tip or exchange any money because the company has your card on file. After your ride, you receive an email with the breakdown in fees. You might be surprised at the bill, as it might differ from the initial estimate the app provided, whereas standard taxi services give you an exact price.

If demand starts to surpass supply—perhaps after a sports event, on a holiday, or after extreme weather—the price starts to spike quickly. This is called “surge pricing”, with the cost of a ride often being multiplied by a factor of 9. This means that the affordability of Uber can vary greatly. Most current users believe it to be a lot cheaper than a regular cab service.

Is the service safe? The Uber service does a lengthy background check on drivers. The driver must pass a county, federal and multi state background check as far back as the law allows. They also have to a clean MVR (driving record). Uber requires their drivers to have a 2004 model car or newer. They also physically inspect the car before it’s put into service. Uber claims that they regularly inspect the cars, but there no mention of how often. The driver must have insurance that covers you as a passenger, but Uber also provides additional liability coverage. Drivers are checked but you should exercise caution, just as you would when getting into any cab.

So how can it be so much cheaper than cab services, and still make a profit for the company? The company takes a 20% cut of the driver’s fares. The company has recently been valued at 18 billion dollars, so they must be making money. This is where the debate starts. A true ride-share is not supposed to make a profit. The idea was conceived to help people basically carpool and save on gas and help the environment.

The taxi industry is heavily regulated on all levels. Companies like Uber, not technically being a taxi service, don’t have to meet those regulations. In Chicago, a taxi license can cost $360,000 and in New York a taxi license can cost as much as $1 million. Not to mention all the other requirements these companies must meet. So you can understand why these taxi services are a little upset.

Uber has definitely come up with a cool idea with lots of benefit for the consumer. What do you think? Have you used a service like Uber? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.

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iTOK Tech Tips: Using Skype on Your Mac

iTOK Tech Tuesday

Skype is a software application that allows you to send instant messages, share files, and make video and voice calls over the internet. The best part about Skype is that all these features are free. You can also upgrade your Skype account to call mobile and landline phones worldwide and send text messages. If you have family members or friends across the country, Skype is a great way to stay in touch and share information. I use Skype to talk to my sister who lives a few states away; I also use Skype to share files and communicate with co-workers just down the hall. There are so many great uses for Skype that there is no reason not to try it out.

I compiled a list of 10 steps to get your started using Skype on your Mac. Don’t worry; I will create a similar post for Windows users in the upcoming weeks.

Skype Homepage

Skype Homepage

To use Skype for a Mac computer follow these simple steps:

1. Type skype.com in your internet browser URL bar and hit the enter or return key. You will be taken to the Skype homepage where you can read about prices, support, and downloads.

2. Click on the “Join Us” button in the top mid right area of your screen. If you already have a Skype account but haven’t downloaded it for your computer, you can sign in and follow the download instructions below.

3. Create an account by filling out your name, profile information, Skype name and password. Write your Skype name and password down somewhere so you don’t forget the information. You will need to use your username and password each time you log into Skype.

Create an account - skype

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. After you have created your Skype account, you will be taken to your account page. Fill in the rest of your profile information.

5. Click on the “Downloads” tab in the middle of the top of the page. Select the device you want to use Skype on. You can download Skype on multiple devices so you are always connected. I have Skype on my computer and my mobile phone so I’m always notified if someone is calling or messaging me.

6. For the moment let’s say we’re downloading the application for our Mac. Click on the “Get Skype for Mac” download button.

Get Skype for Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. After clicking on the button, Skype will begin its download and a box like the one below will appear. Wait a few moments and then click “Save File”. If you can’t click it, and it’s grayed out (like in the image below) wait a little longer until the button is bold, and then click it. This should complete the download process.

Opening Skype

 

 

 

 

8. Once Skype is downloaded, it will appear in your downloads folder. Double-click the Skype installer; it will take a few moments to load. A window will appear with the Skype application and a shortcut to Applications folder. Drag the Skype application onto the Applications shortcut and let go. This will install Skype in the Applications folder on your Mac.

Drag Skype

 

 

 

 

 

9. Launch Skype from your applications folder and sign in using your Skype name and password. If you forget your Skype name or password, click on the “Can’t access your account” link. The link will take you to a Skype page that will ask you for the email you used to register. After you type in your email, Skype will send you information on how to log into your account.

Sign into Skype

 

 

 

 

 

10. Once you have logged in, click on your Contacts tab, you may have some contacts already if you have Mac contacts on your computer. If you want to add someone as a contact, click on the Add Contact button. You can type in a friend’s actual name or Skype user name in the search bar.

You can use Skype to make domestic and international phone calls, but keep in mind, you need to upgrade your account to do so, and the upgrade is not free. However, instant messaging in Skype is fast and free, and can happen on any computer with Internet access. I would suggest asking your friend or family member to create their own Skype account so you can call and talk over the Internet for free.

Don’t hesitate to call us at 1.866.515.4865 if you need help downloading Skype.

Do you already Skype? Do you have questions about this cool app? Let us know in the comments below.

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Mac vs. PC: Which Is Easier to Learn?

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The battle of Mac vs PC is as old as personal computers themselves. Each product has its devoted users that would rather draw blood then admit the other product might be better than theirs in some way. So where does that leave the consumer? Weeding through articles and discussions, both sides are bent on proving their product is better. It’s almost impossible to find an impartial opinion on the matter. It’s true that both operating systems have their benefits and shortcomings, and we could have a month-long debate on the differences. We ourselves opened the debate a couple of years back with an infographic called Mac vs. PC – Who’s really winning? In general, the data from 2011 is still true today. All the points made about price, security, popularity, software, reliability and compatibility are close to the same today as back then. So the debate still continues.

To a person just starting to learn a computer system for the first time, discussing hardware, software, customization, and design can all go right over your head. Sure, all those things are important. But just how important? If you’re just learning to use computers for the first time all the tech talk can be exhausting. Sure, that’s stuff you need to learn eventually no matter what system you decide on. But for now you need to think about what suits you best, and what’s easiest for you to learn.

When people ask me for advice as to which type of computer to buy a Mac or a PC. I typically ask “What are you using it for?” Many people at the start of their computer adventure just want to accomplish a few simple tasks: surf the web, check email and Facebook, play games, and maybe do some word processing. Today we try to answer one simple question: Which personal computer system is easiest to learn and use? Even this question can lead to a lot of debate, but it’s a good one to think about.

Both Apple and Windows’ systems use a graphical interface. This is a system of windows, icons, and tools that allow you operate programs and files through a visual representation. Both systems are very different in the way they operate.

The user interface of Windows 8.1 on a PC.

The user interface of Windows 8.1 on a PC.

The main desktop of a Macintosh computer running OS Mavericks.

The main desktop of a Macintosh computer running OS Mavericks.

Macs use non-technical language, making them easier to understand. The Mac’s dock, seen at the bottom of the screen in the photo above, uses large, colorful icons and makes frequently used programs easy to access. In my opinion, if you’ve never used a computer, the Mac’s one-button mouse system makes navigating the interface easy. Installing and deleting programs on a PC requires an installer or uninstaller wizard, and sometimes these don’t necessarily remove all traces of programs the way they should. Installing and removing programs on a Mac is simple and straightforward.

The window management system on a Mac allows you to see every open window on your computer, create as many desktops as you want, and organize your work so that everything you need is accessible. Mac applications have no useless “OK” and “Apply” buttons; changes are applied immediately and on the fly. The system seems to be more responsive and requires less input from the users. Apple makes its own hardware, software, and accessories, and delivers the product whole to the consumer. This can be looked at as both a good and bad point to and advanced user. For a new user, it’s good because you don’t need to make decisions about what software and components to use and then deal with the challenge of installing software. Mac users simply power up the computer and use them right from the box. If an Apple user has a problem with a part like a keyboard or hard drive, there a single point of contact: Apple customer service. PCs have hardware and software made by multiple outside vendors. Apple also has its customer support center based in the United States, unlike many other manufacturers who outsource customer support to other countries.

Both systems take time to learn, and different people will always prefer either system for various reasons. If you have ever used either system in the past, using the other will be awkward. For that reason alone, if you have any previous experience with either system, you should consider sticking to the system you know. If you have a tablet or smartphone running windows, then just buy a PC. If you have an iPad or iPhone, then buy a Mac. Sticking with what you know will help you feel more comfortable, and will also help eliminate connectivity issues between your devices. I’ve had the pleasure to work and learn on both systems since I was a kid. If you have never used either system before, it’s my opinion that the Mac operating system is easier for a first time user to understand and hit the ground running. In future posts, we’ll do a more in-depth comparison of both systems’ strengths.

Do you have a preference between Mac and PC? Which was easier for you to learn? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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