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Wednesday
Jan062016

Cord-cutting is Difficult

My beautiful wife and I recently retired and bought a wonderful home in Sedona, AZ. We plan to move there this summer, but in the meantime we’ve been going back and forth as much as possible. There’s lots of decisions to be made as we plan our move. Which furniture do we pay to move and what do we buy new? Which cars do we keep? Do we really need a Jeep to take advantage of the hundreds of miles of trails surrounding our new home? Do we move our DirecTV subscription or try cable-cutting?

The first trip to our new home was all about getting things set up. Power, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage pick-up and the like. There was no doubt about needing an Internet connection, so I studied the options and talked to existing customers about their service experience. I settled on the local cable company, Suddenlink. They offered the fastest and most affordable service. I purchased their small business package with 100 Mb down and 20 Mb up service for ~$60/month. I just happen to be a Suddenlink customer at our current residence and I was pleased that our new home connection is over three times faster for the same money. I arranged for them to install our new service the second day after we arrived. Everything went smoothly. I chose the high-speed Internet-only option for now since we’ll only be there one week per month until we move. I took along one of my 3rd generation TVs and hooked it up to a 27” monitor so we’d at least have something to watch while we’re there in the interim.

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Saturday
Dec262015

A Fantastic Stereo for ~ $300

You may be asking, “Why is a Mac geek writing about stereo gear?” Well, Apple is really good at a lot of things. One of which is delivering an enormous selection of music in a number of creative and industry-shattering ways. iTunes opens a portal to Apple’s unrivaled music library, from which you can choose to purchase by song or album or take the “all you can eat” approach by subscribing to Apple Music. Your music can be on your Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod or all the above. You can also choose to not store any of it and rely on streaming your library from the cloud. Yes, Apple has revolutionized the way we acquire and store music.

The one area where Apple leaves us to our own devices is in actually listening to the music we own (or rent). Apple’s sparse offerings for this includes their EarPods included with every new iPhone or iPod, their (only slightly better) In-Ear Headphones and now the recently-acquired Beats line of headphones and portable speakers. If you want a room-filling stereo, Apple has no offering for that.

MacTexan to the rescue!

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Monday
Dec212015

So, How’s My  Watch Experience After 7 Months?

It’s been just about seven months since I received my  Watch. Since then, it has become an integral part of my daily routine. I’ve read lots of stories recently about others’ experiences with their  Watches, many of which conclude with a “I can take it or leave it” type statement. My take: I don’t want to be without it!

Shortly after receiving my  Watch (about three weeks), I posted ten reasons why I loved it. I thought it might be interesting to revisit that list after over half a year to see what points I made then are still valid today.

Here goes:

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Thursday
Dec172015

Safari is (Still) My Favorite Browser

If you’re like me, the app you spend the most time using is your browser. There’s lots of apps that run continually in the background and iTunes is open pretty much whenever my Mac is turned on, but when it comes to actual eyeballs-on, mouse clicking, keyboard tapping use, my browser occupies more of my computing time than any other app, hands down. Mail is probably in second place, but it is a way-distant second. Let’s face it, these days “computing” means being on-line. On the rare occasion when I’m somewhere with no internet connection, I have a hard time finding a reason to use my Mac (or iPad or iPhone…).  I guess I could write something. Hopefully I won’t have to continue something I saved to the cloud. I’m not a gamer and my patience will only allow so much solitaire. So, I usually take the opportunity to unplug. As a side note: I think everyone should go “off-line” every so often, if for no other reason than to connect with the masses who don’t live their lives on-line like we do.

Internet browsers have become so important that choosing one is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. On a Mac, there are three viable browser choices: Safari, Chrome and Firefox. All have their pluses and minuses and your definition of the “best” browser will depend on how you plan to use it and what kind of hardware you own.

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Saturday
Nov282015

Plex: The Best Media Server for Your Mac

Plex is in the TV app store and it works GREAT!In my previous post I briefly mentioned the rolls I configured on my reclaimed Windows XP, (circa 2004) Dell Optiplex that I wiped and rebuilt with Ubuntu 14.04. I got quite a few comments and questions about that diatribe, the most common being questions about how I configured my media server. Obviously, given this post’s title, I chose Plex. Why?

Well, using Plex only happened after a long, arduous journey through a number of software solutions available for a 64 bit Linux machine. I have been a long-time XBMC fan, so it was the first solution I tried, and tried and tried again. More on those tribulations in a moment. For now, suffice to say I picked Plex because of its capability and polish. Plex is a commercial application and while Plex offers free versions, they are what I call “crippleware” that provide only the most basic features. To make Plex sing you’ll need to spend a few bucks, but only a few. How much depends on what you need it to do. I wanted a media server to run on my Linux box whose primary function is serving my movie library to all my computers, set top boxes, iOS and Android devices. That includes Macs, Windows 10 and Windows 7 computers, DirecTV DVRs, iPhones, iPads, AppleTVs and a Nexus 7 Android tablet. That is what differentiates Plex from all the other media servers I experimented with.

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