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A Great 4K Monitor for Under $400

Damn you, Apple! You’ve ruined me for life. In November of 2013, you re-calibrated by eyeballs. Now, I own a bunch of perfectly good hardware that I can hardly stand to look at.
Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but…
It was a faithful day in late 2013 when the UPS driver dropped off my 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display. Within an hour of unboxing the machine I knew I had just started down a path of no return. My epiphany came when I turned 90 degrees to my left, diverting my gaze from my new MacBook Pro to my 2009 27” iMac. What I once thought was the most beautiful computer display I’d ever seen, now looked shoddy by comparison with pixels the size of golf balls. It was almost as if someone had smeared Vaseline on my glasses.
My previous laptop was a 2009 17” MBP. Like always, I did the BTO (Build To Order) thing from Apple’s on-line store when I bought it and, like always, I got every hardware upgrade Apple offered at the time because my MBP is my main machine. I don’t need a “Starbucks Surfer”. As an IT consultant, I need a powerful, portable workstation with as many connections as possible to suit the myriad office setups I typically encounter over the lifetime of a machine (usually 3 or 4 years). I need as much RAM as I can get to accommodate a Windows VM because well, I’m in the IT business and some chores just require Windows. I also like a discrete graphics card to drive a large monitor when I’m “docked” at my home office. If you’ve used Mac portables as long as I have then you understand the word “docked” isn’t 100% accurate (or 75% or maybe even 60…). But I’m straying a bit. More on that in a minute.

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Holy S**t! What a Mac!

I got my first Mac in 2006, a 17” MacBook Pro. Since then, I’ve not bought a Windows PC of any kind. I’ve owned several Macs and tried to keep a fairly recent iMac in my office and a MacBook Pro for when I’m on the go. My current portable is a late 2013, 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display. Until recently, I’ve had a late 2009, 27” iMac in my office. It served me quite well with its quad-core Core i7 processor, 16 gigs of RAM and 512 GB SSD (I added the SSD myself). When I first got it, I thought it was the best Mac a body could own. It performed very well, especially after I swapped the 1 TB hard drive for the SSD. I was 100% satisfied with the machine until I got my latest MBP. You see, once you start using a Retina display, all other displays look like crap. So, when Apple announced the 5K iMac in 2014 my techno-lust reared its ugly head again.

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Raspberry Pi 3: Now a Legitimate Desktop Computer for $200!

The latest hardware offering from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the Raspberry Pi version 3 crosses a major threshold. This new device is now a real computer capable of running a real, modern desktop operating system. I immediately pre-ordered one when I saw the specs: 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM processor, 1 GB RAM, built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, HDMI, 10/100 Ethernet and four USB ports.

When it arrived yesterday I tore my office and then a few other nooks apart looking for a Micro-SD card to burn a boot image onto. No luck. Unbelievable. I had to go the the Family Dollar store at 21:30 to buy the only card within 10 miles of my rural-suburban home at that time of day. Still, I got a couple SanDisk 8 GB cards for $10 each. It seems in today's world of portable electronics; Micro-SD cards are harder to hold onto than AA batteries. Armed with fresh media, I downloaded three or four operating systems of varying purpose and architecture.

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Why Can’t Apple Make a Keyboard Like this?

Logitech's K811 "Easy Switch" KeyboardHere’s the deal. I have a shortlist of musts for a keyboard: 

  • Bluetooth (I mean, wires? Really?)
  • iOS & OS X compatibility
  • Sturdy (well-made)
  • Backlit

Bluetooth is a must for two reasons: 1) Wireless means less desktop clutter and adds freedom of movement and 2) Bluetooth built-in to all modern Macs and iOS devices means NO DONGLE to occupy a USB port and ultimately lose.  Also, I want a keyboard that works well with OS X and iOS. The more iOS-specific keys the better, but a keyboard “Home Button” is an absolute must. I know, COMMAND + H is the same as pressing the iPad’s Home button, but having a dedicated key is much handier and there’s no key combos to remember. A sturdy, well-made keyboard goes without saying. I’ve wasted too much money on “bargain” keyboards with lots of great features only to abandon it because the keys were mushy and/or the whole keyboard was flimsy. I also really like a keyboard with a backlight. All too often I find myself in a dark setting and I’m not a good enough touch-typist to be anywhere near accurate without an occasional glance down to get my bearings. When using a keyboard that isn’t backlit, I sometimes find myself holding my keyboard up to the screen to see where things are.

Apple’s wireless keyboard only checks 2 ½ of the four boxes.

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This Mac Guy LOVES Microsoft!... (Office)

I think the last time I said something nice about Microsoft was when Windows NT 3.1 was released in 1993. Well, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I think it’s fairly safe to say I haven’t sent many flowers Redmond’s way any time recently. Today, however, I’m reminded of that famous Macworld presentation Steve Jobs made shortly after his triumphant return to Apple in 1997. You know the one. Jobs was on stage in the foreground with the giant video call to Bill Gates behind him. In retrospect, the chorus of boos from the Mac faithful was pretty embarrassing. After all, (and unbeknownst to the crowd in attendance), Mr. Gates had just pumped $150 million into the quite nearly financially ruined Apple. Anyway, Jobs retorted the Mac crowd by schooling them to forget the idea that in order for Apple to win, Microsoft had to lose. The battle for the desktop, if indeed there ever was one, had been settled for years. With hundreds of millions of installations and a 95+ percent market share worldwide, Windows had become the undeniable ruler of the desktop operating system domain. What Mr. Jobs so pointedly told Macheads that day is that there’s room in the tech world for everybody to do great things. I just wanted to remind you MacTexans about that before my next declaration.

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