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Bill Bennett

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Tag: ipod

Microsoft matters

After writing Does Microsoft still matter? it occurred that I write a lot of posts about a company that is possibly out of the running when it comes to leading the technology industry.

At the time of writing there are 92 stories tagged Microsoft on this site. That’s more than the number of tags for Apple, Google and Samsung combined.

One possible reason is my tagging isn’t that good. The word “Apple” turns up in 114 posts, while “Microsoft” is in 140. That’s partly because Microsoft has ambiguous brand names. I have to spell out that Word or Windows means the Microsoft product while iPad, Mac, iPhone and iPod are all unambiguous.

A second reason is that this site is now seven years old. Microsoft loomed larger in the early days. If you look at posts only from the last two years, Apple is well in front of Microsoft.

And let’s not forget my focus is more on business than on consumer technology — that’s Microsoft’s core market.

Still, for a company that may “no longer matter”, Microsoft gets a fair share of coverage.

Windows iTunes is a disgrace

You’d think Apple would have the sense to make Windows iTunes a wonderful experience. So wonderful that it tempts Windows users to see what other software marvels Apple is capable of. So wonderful they consider dumping Windows and shifting to a Macintosh.

Either Apple isn’t bothered about using its software as a marketing tool, or its programmers are incapable of writing decent Windows code.

Because Windows iTunes has always been rubbish.

Windows iTunes still rubbish after all these years

Windows iTunes is rubbish. And it hasn’t improved over the years, It crashes, it fails, it loses stuff, it doesn’t sync properly. It leaves behind a trail of junk all over the Windows hard drive.

Sadly, iTunes remains a must have because it is the only official way to sync an iPod, iPhone or iPad to a PC.

Sure there are other ways to deal with music. But they are all just as flawed. I’m not sure there is an alternative for moving files and apps between a computer and an iPad.

Not only is the software awful, but Apple treats Windows customers with contempt. Support questions go unanswered. Long-standing problems, which to this non-developer look relatively trivial, go unfixed even when they are widely acknowledged.

My latest problem is that I can’t install iTunes 11 on my Windows 8 desktop. One Twitter user told me not to bother – the older software is better anyway. Well maybe. But my iPad is an important work tool and I want to keep it up-to-date.

Not only will Windows iTunes 11 not install, but I can’t remove iTunes 10. When I attempted to remove the older program the uninstall failed. However that process also affected how the application works. I can no longer use my keyboard to control volume or to stopping files playing. Not a big thing, just more evidence that iTunes is broken.

Apple: please fix this.

File compression

File compression works because document files store data quickly and inefficiently – like carelessly throwing clothes in a suitcase before a trip. Taking more time and care makes it possible to pack more in the case.

File compression tools are like vacuum luggage packs that squeeze half as much again into your bag.

You could be forgiven for thinking file compression is past its sell-by date in this era of huge hard drives and broadband. Compression is still useful because broadband speeds are still not spectacular and modern multimedia files are enormous.

You probably use compression all the time without thinking about it because it is hidden from sight.

Take, audio. A file on a standard music CD is many tens of megabytes in size – typically 50 MB. The same song stored as an MP3 file might be only 4MB. MP3 is a compressed data format – in effect it squeezes out the blanks between sounds.

If music wasn’t compressed, you wouldn’t be able to get many songs on an iPod and it would take forever to download from iTunes. Compression removes some music information along the way – that’s why MP3s rarely sound as good as the original audio files.

In a similar way jpeg compresses pictures and movies are compressed with a range of different formats.

Compression is not built-in to office applications like word processors and spreadsheets. Third-party compression tools to fill the gap.

Zip is the best known file compression format. Another popular format is .rar, there’s a good chance you’ll come across other formats.

Windows now has built-in support for Zip files. You can create a new compressed folder or create a new one directly in Windows explorer. Dealing with other formats requires a compression application – most, including some of the best are free. My favourite is jZip (www.jzip.com) JZip is a fast tool that handles most formats you’ll encounter in day-to-day computing.

You don’t need to overdo compression. In many cases it is more trouble than it is worth because it slows things down. Be selective about what you compress.

Barnes and Noble claims Nook ebook success

Barnes and Noble says internal sales data shows the Nook e-reader is a hit. The company says the device is now its fastest selling item. Not bad considering the Nook doesn’t officially go on sale until November 30.

While the Nook, like Amazon’s Kindle, pushes e-book technology further into the mainstream, neither is yet the killer product able to do for books what Apple’s iPod did for music. Mind you, Apple has a tablet waiting in the wings which could be the breakthrough reader.

For my money, e-book readers still need to be kinder on the eyes. All the technology is now in place except good, readable, high-resolution screens that don’t tire the eyes. Early adopters won’t care about this, but most book lovers won’t switch to digital until the experience is as good as reading old-fashioned ink squirted on mashed-up trees.