Free or Paid software is the question.

That’s a interesting question isn’t it!

That is a interesting question and it has a non-clear answer too! I will explain that dodgy sounding answer coming up here in a bit. Right now however, I just wish to say this. I have seen both versions of software (Paid and Free) get better and better. I’ve also seen both get worse and worse.

Some people think that one is better than the other. They might be correct however it doesn’t mean that it is the correct answer for you. There are several factors that can sway the obtaining and usage of the software question for you. Now we start to get ready to help answer the question.

Why pick one over another?

There might be several reasons one might pick paid over free and vice versa. So here we start down this path and maybe this can help you decide what is best for what you need it for.

Familiarity because you use it at work or other previous experience. This here seems to be a big one especially when it comes to trying to change a office who is used to using brand x of the software to brand y. If you want to be productive immediately, you will need to have chosen a software package that you are familiar with. However the money question might slow that down quite a bit.

Money (purchasing) factors. This is one that can really make a decision for most people here. The cost of the software. Some may have the extra bread lying around to spend on the exact same software that they use at their office place but others do not. Now since some software companies do have a (possibly) lower cost solution in the form of subscriptions. These software subscriptions allow users to use the higher priced software for a monthly fee. These users also have their software updated to the next version for free is the subscription is kept current. However if you don’t pay the subscription fees, the software will cease to function. Please keep that in mind.

TCO Total Cost of Ownership. Whether you work for a business or you do your own thing, this does apply to everyone from casual user to a business user. One needs to actually sit down and look at TCO. This is where it can be a make or break for the software choice. One part of this is again the initial cost. Can you as a individual or business take the initial cost hit? Now armed with that answer, answer this one. Will it be easy for me or my employees to learn and use? How fast can they switch from one software to another? Why did I bring this up? Simple…It is the question of training!

For a home user, we really don’t think about it. We can learn from a variety of sources from places such as Lynda.com to YouTube and learn a new software from these resources. However this is true with people who work in a business environment however while they are glued to a screen or to a professional tutor in a class, they are being paid to sit there and learn. Paid for what is sometime referred to as NPW or Non Productive Work. This can be a good thing or a bad one depending on the companies bottom line and several other factors. Good companies try to keep the productive output high but keep their employees trained as well. Seems like things keep going back to money doesn’t it?

User/Company needs

What does your company need the software for? What specifically does the software need to do in order for you or your company to continue rolling along? This answer like most of the others is not so cut and dry. Depending on your needs and where the future might take you will depend on which one you may need to choose no matter what payment model the program uses. I can give a quick example below. This is not comprehensive at all but is here to hopefully illustrate a point.

Home user doing personal projects using photos. Mainly print pictures at kiosks and at home. Low budget and does not use any software in the workplace.

This individual seems like they are not perusing any kind of business venture nor are they going to share files with any business such as a commercial printer. This instantly tells me that their requirements are very low. IPHO (In My Personal Humble Opinion) they will not need anything as expensive as Photoshop or any software costing over $200. This kind of individual can use free software such as GIMP and Picasa to name a few. Some lower costing paid software that they can use would be things like Photoshop Elelemts and Corel Paint Shop Pro. They will most likely get what they wish to get done with a very low TCO. They obtain the software, choose a learning method (again paid or free) and then use said software for their purposes. In this case, the TCO will vary but should be within the range of most home users.

Home user who also uses software in a production environment is familiar with software.

The only real TCO factors here for this kind of individual is going to be the software acquisition and making sure that his home computer has the necessary components to use the software. They are already trained on the software so that isn’t a issue. This kind of person might need to bring something home from work and finish it to meet a deadline. In this case since the work files need to be at maximum compatibility, then it would be wise for this person to get the same thing they use at work.

Small company uses software for internal use only. Does only use outside sources to get work completed. Most things done in house. Few employees.

Here in this case, it will depend on operating budget and how fast the individuals working at this company will need to get proficient with the software. If the operational budget is shifted towards training only, then some of the free versions of software maybe a good option. Since the actual program is free but you are using the budget to get your workers up to speed on how to use the software, the TCO of that software will be in the training. Also since the work for this company will be only used for final output of something non-digital such as printed pages, manufactured goods or anything tangible, the free software saving formats are not a issue. However if they change the business model to include taking files for processing, they will have to be very careful what files they can use. This can get into a can of worms on it’s own. I’m trying to make this somewhat simple.

Here is some examples that I was asked to evaluate for people

I need to get some software so my little Johnny can type up a school report or two and the wife and I might need it to maybe do budgets and letters. What do you recommend?

My first questions were: Are you familiar with Microsoft Office and what does the purchasing budget look like? The responses were that they weren’t familiar with Office and they were needing something as cheap as possible. Other question were: Are you going to exchange the files the software creates and if so how often? Again the answers were that they really don’t exchange files and will mainly be used for family use and printing documents. My answers were OpenOffice now called Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Both of these software packages will do what they want, very low cost (FREE) and they could either ask me for help or head onto the web and YouTube and see how to use the software. Simple requirements, simple needs, very low TCO with selected software equaled one happy individual.

I need a program or programs for my upcoming graphic based business. I will need to be able to output my files to certain machines and again the money question was a concern since they dropped the money on equipment and not on software.

Ooohhh that is a bit dangerous. I actually puckered up and shivered here. However the questions had to be asked. How often will you need to use customers files? What kind of a budget was I looking at here? Was the owner of the business familiar with using any graphics design software and which ones and were there going to be any employees that needed training?

What came next frightened me more. This person will sometimes need to use customer files but not all the time since the files were mainly used for the production machines in house. The budget was like non-existent, He was not familiar with ANY software and he said that he might be hiring down the road.

Here is what I recommended to this person. I haven’t spoke to them in a while and don’t know what he choose to do. I wish him the best of luck. I suggested for raster files (picture files) that he downloads and installs GIMP and for the vector file part of the equation I suggested Inkscape. Both are pretty powerful and free. Both will work with his existing machinery but the training factor might just come around and cost him greatly! He can absorb some of the cost being the only employee however training others to work for him with software that isn’t “industry standard” might make it a bit rough. This can be done and it has been done but planning needs to be the key word here!

Wow this got kind of long didn’t it? Let’s wrap this up shall we?

Well as you may have read up above, there are quite a few things to consider when trying to answer the question of free or paid software. Someone might have thought, can I do both if the money will allow? Use both paid and free software? Short answer is yes! I do it all the time actually. Just be careful however that some programs have different methods of solving the same problem and the programs will have different abilities and drawbacks. If you can learn those, you will be in great shape! Whatever you choose, just ensure that it will fit into your or your business needs.

Well y’all I’m off to bring out the inner caveman in me. Yep going to go play with some old school technology now. The natural wood charcoal grill!

Cooking Technology and My Regression with it.

What the…

I know that is what some would be saying by the title of this post. What is he talking about? Cooking Technology!?! Yes believe it or not, there is a science to how our food is prepared. Science has evolved how we get our daily grub fix on from making it faster and more convenient to more energy efficient. Technology has affected our lives in this regard as well. In this post, I hope to very briefly touch on the basic history of cooking and how technology has evolved to make our lives a bit easier in this matter. I will also show how and why I’m kind of backsliding on technology. I hope that my mistress (technology) don’t find out! Sssshhhhh!!!!!

The cooking history basics

I’m not discussing the technology that we used to kill or gather our food, I’m mainly touching on the actual food prep technology here. That topic might be addressed later on.

Well in the very beginning, there was really no cooking. We gathered or hunted. Once we killed our prey and as primitive and gross as it sounds, it was consumed raw! Definitely not the best way but it did allow the evolution of food preparation technology to start. The first advance was fire! Oh yes the magical thing that kept our ancestors warm and provided light found it’s way to cooking their food. Whether it was on the embers or on a spit above the fire, we evolved up the process to cook on a open fire. Again primitive but it was a step up from eating raw meat!

Moving along a throughout the years, we invented ways to cook with fire but with more controllable results. Inventions like grills, cookware, ovens and stoves that used fire as their heat source made food prep easier still. We were now able to more easily and creatively able to combine what we hunted and gathered together to form recipes! Not only now can we sustain ourselves but we can have a tastier way of doing so. This old school method of cooking with wood fire still exists today. It is a art that I’m seeing revived somewhat but still that mistress tempted us with more advances that can be argued to be cleaner easier to use and has really up the game again.

The technology that I’m describing is electricity and gas such as natural or propane. This technology to cooking has made it easy for the masses and is readily available. These two are the most common way of food prep today! We still use cookware, grills and other inventions from the past however their method and construction has varied throughout the years.

Stove tops, ovens, ranges and grills can and do use these newer technologies to cook food. They can have better and more efficient heat control and again readily accessible. We also invented different types of cookware that helps us prepare food with the new technology and made them lighter and easier to care for. Since electricity became wide spread and safer to use, we invented smaller and more compact ways to prepare our foods. Some of the things that we have used in some form or another are crock pots, electric skillets and woks, deep fry devices, toasters, counter top ovens and microwaves to name a few.

I know that this was a very abbreviated history of food preparation technology but it was used to kind of prove a point. Cooking technology has come a very long way and still evolves today as I’m typing this. Technology is wonderful right?

OK but why are you regressing?

Well before everyone thinks that I’m a hypocrite, let’s lay out a few ground rules OK?

First is that I use modern technology all the time. I use some of the modern day “cooking marvels” that some might argue don’t work but for me, they work amazingly! These items are

  • Ninja 3 in 1 cooking system (I LOVE THIS THING!)
  • Pizzaz pizza cooker
  • Pasta Boat Pasta Cooker
  • Microwave Rice cooker

Other modern technology I use everyday is the electric range/oven and microwave.

Are you confused yet on why I might be backtracking? Well hang on folks I’m about to reveal what exactly I’m starting my backtracking on and why. The two things I’m backtracking on is cooking method and cookware. I’m going back to the old ways. Cooking with fire and cast iron cookware.

What the!?! WHY!!!!

Well simply put, I like the flavour that cooking with open flame puts on my foods. Some might disagree with this but we can agree to disagree here. I also live in a area in which rough storms especially in the summer can knock out power. With fire, I can still keep on cooking. The same could be said if you have a gas grill or gas appliances. If you’re using electricity and have a generator you’re set but what if you don’t have a generator? Unless you have a good neighbour that has some form of a more primitive method of cooking (gas or fire), you might be eating cold food.

I’m also getting back into camping and because of the versatility of the cookware, I can still eat good while away from home. Mind you this stuff is heavy as heck but I was thinking about maybe getting some sort of camper to haul said cookware in Since I won’t know what all the camper might have as far as cooking technologies(because we haven’t got one yet), I can have my cookware and some all wood charcoal, all natural lump charcoal or some sort of wood that came from either a fruit or nut tree, I will be set.

Now onto the cookware. I’m chose cast iron for several reasons. It’s proven technology that has worked throughout the years. People have used this cookware to fry, sauté, bake and do just about every kind of cooking method there is. With this cookware, I can use it with any existing technology methods of heating up the cookware. I can also use it with fire and coals. Some modern cookware can do this but I will go with what is tried and true.

There are some disadvantages of cast iron. Unless you upkeep the “seasoning” of the pan, it can rust so maintenance can be a issue. These things are heavier then traditional cookware! Quite a bit heavier. Need some exercise, cook a complete supper with nothing but cast iron cookware. You get to cook and lift weights at the same time. Cast iron does take a little longer to heat up. If you are in a hurry, then cast iron cooking may not be for you.Here are the advantages. Cast iron can be used with any form of heat. From fire/coals to electric stoves and ranges. This cookware will retain heat very well! You will most of the time need pot holders or some other form of heat protection when working with cast iron. Once properly seasoned and with proper cooking techniques, this cookware will be just as non-stick as most of the modern cookware. I’ve personally cooked eggs and cornbread in my cast iron cookware and it was very non-stick and easy to clean. If the seasoning comes off, you can completely re season the cookware! Try that with your Teflon non-stick pan. With proper care, cast iron will last generations!

The cookware that you can get made from cast iron is very diverse. From various sizes of skillets, pots, “indoor” Dutch oven, enamelled pots, grills, griddles and the “campers” Dutch oven (this is the one with the feet and raised lip on the lid). I personally need to only obtain two of the listed pieces and they are a grill/griddle combination and a campers Dutch oven.

I have the others in one form or another and everyday they keep getting better because of use and also my ability to use them. This form of cookware is a bit different so if you do wish to try using cast iron, please be patient and take the time to learn how this cookware works with heat!

Almost done!

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that I’m a hybrid as far as cooking is concerned. My interest really peaked when I got for my anniversary present a smoke box for my grill so I can smoke up some goodies. This is when it really hit me that I can do most everything with the old school ways especially if I can get the “campers” Dutch oven. I can bake then! If i can’t get it, I can supposedly hack my existing indoor one to use outdoors. I may have to try that and see how it goes. Unless I all of a sudden become a hermit in a cave somewhere, I still will use modern day cooking devices as well.

If my mistress finds out that I’m not using the latest and greatest, I might just get hit over the head with said cast iron skillet. She doesn’t like when I don’t keep up with technology.

Until the next time I post, y’all have a good un!

Cell phones and my personal journey with them (May contain some humor)

The Here and Now

Ah yes, the cell phone. Once it was only a device that could only really do one thing and that was place and receive calls. Now they are technological marvels that continue to this day still blow my mind on what they can do!

The phones keep getting smaller and more powerful! My current device has replaced devices that either I wanted to have, had or have now but don’t use.

The list of things that my personal phone has replaced for me or is in the stages of replacing:

  • Landline phone
  • Music player
  • Portable Gaming system
  • Camera
  • Alarm Clock
  • Portable Computer*
  • GPS system
  • Portable Document Scanner
  • Portable mini TV
  • E-book reader

* Even though I can do quite a few tasks on my device, I still need a computer from time to time do some tasks.

These are just a few that I’ve fairly quickly named. Of course what your device has replaced will depend on the device and what apps you have installed. But for now, let’s take a stroll down memory lane shall we?

<HARP STRUMMING SOUNDS WITH A BLUR EFFECT>

So starts my journey with cell phones.

When I was a young lad, the cell phone was not near as small, sleek nor as “smart” as the devices of today. Nope. They were big, bulky, sound quality was hit and miss and can only place or receive calls.

My first ever cell phone was a bag phone. Yes the cell phone was in a “travel sized case” that I could either keep in the bag for portability or I could take the components out of the bag and mount inside my car. I guess at the time it was portable but it looked like I was packing for a weekend when I carried this thing around or moved it from one vehicle to another. Portable yes, stylish…not really. The battery that powered this thing was big and really didn’t hold a charge too well hence I had mine almost always plugged in.

The cell phone plans were worse back then too! Roaming was something that you really had to worry about in those days! The roaming fees can eat you alive so we had to keep conversations on these things short when we waltzed out of our coverage areas. It was a wonderful invention though because I did have to use it a few times and I was grateful to have it!!!

Well that phase came and went. For the longest time after that, I didn’t have a cell phone and really didn’t keep up with the technology. Then the need came once more and the mistress of technology was luring me in like a siren song. This time I was really in for a shock! The phones have gotten smaller! Holy cow!!! Instead of lugging around with me a small Samsonite bag, I now had the same thing that would fit in the palm of my hand!!!

The plans were still something to consider but I can now more easily take the phone with me! The weight difference was substantial! Going from a small bag of bricks to a brick was mind-blowing! Oh and I had some cool features too! Different ring tones (I couldn’t upload any of my own. Had to use what came with phone), a better phone directory that can hold more numbers (Address book),an alarm clock and a game! The game was the traditional growing snake game but it still entertained me for the longest time! This portable wonder still only had a LCD display but what an improvement!

Life moved a little further ahead and I got an even newer device. OOOHHHH LOOKIE, COLOR!!!! Yep this newer model had a color screen on it! This one was even smaller still! This time instead of a handheld brick, it was the folding type of phone most commonly called a clam shell. The call quality was better, the device was smaller, had a few more features on it but COLOR !

Then when at this time I couldn’t think that I couldn’t do any better, the fine folks at Motorola had to do it! They came out with the RAZR phone! The clamshell version! OH LORD I”VE DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN!!!! This thing was (excuse the language reference) badass (IMHO)!!! This little wonder had a decent (for the time) camera, had the ability to allow the user to upload custom ringtones and assign them to contacts, picture ID for contacts, play mp3’s and the call quality with mine was exceptional! I actually miss this phone to this day! Oh how the mistress had blessed me with this piece of technology.

However the mistress wasn’t done with me yet. Not by a long shot!

Now Entering the Smart Phone Zone

I had a few other phones other than the RAZR but IMHO they weren’t as good. Because of economics, I had to resort back to the very basic clamshell phone. It was tough too! Going from a fairly nice modern PC back to a Commodore 64 was rough! I was missing my tech rush.

I didn’t have to wait long. Along came a phone that the mistress’s urge was pulling me so strong that I had to have it. It was the first touch screen device I’d ever seen. The Blackberry Storm!

It had very few buttons and most everything could be done on the touch screen! This is where I got my cherry popped on apps! Yes I would load small programs called apps on this thing and have it do more! I could get email, chat, play some games, do some basic GPS functions, and more! When I had this thing, I was like, a mini computer that fit into my hands! I liked this thing well enough until when going for a job out-of-state, some a**hole stole it! So back to a normal type of phone I went. Stayed humble again until the mistress had to tempt me again. Like tempting a hungry dog with a big, juicy Porterhouse steak, she dangled in front of me….The Motorola DROID!!!

Now if I haven’t thought I was King Crap of the Crap pile before, I was now! This thing had apps a plenty! The screen colors (again IMHO) were better, better camera, slide out keyboard (loved that feature) and a smaller footprint than the BB Storm! Easy to operate and with more power, wow lookie what I can do now! It was actually this phone that started the no going back with maybe the exception of the original RAZR, to the old school phones! Yep touchscreen goodness and hand-held communication computers for me all the way! The DROID lasted me a while until it met an untimely death by being dropped from a height of 8 ft down to the concrete. The phone still worked but the screen was shattered. This is where I learned the value of cases!

Here on out

Well we kind of made it back to the present. I’ve had other smart phones based on the Android operating system and stayed with that theme for many years after. Even though the handset manufactures changed several times, the base operating system or OS didn’t. This was until a friend of mine told me that he and his wife went to Apple devices. I kept it in the back of my mind for later and went along my day. I got so angered with a handset manufacturer about the quality of their handsets that I decided to switch from the Android OS to a Windows one. When I mad the switch, I wasn’t really ready for the differences. This is just a IMHO part here. Your experience with the Windows OS on the mobile may be different. The apps weren’t as plentiful as they were in the Android universe, the OS wasn’t as refined (again IMHO) and some things weren’t as simple to do.

Well I’m the type of person that sticks to their decisions but one day the phone hard locked and started to deplete the battery faster than flies on fresh poo! When I finally got the device under control, I was ORDERED not ASKED, ORDERED by my wife to get rid of that thing. An so I did. That’s when I remembered what my friend said about Apple and I went there. So far, so good. Me personally, I’ve had a better experience with the Apple products and quality of said products. However this is an opinion of mine. Everyone’s experiences will vary.

Is Apple’s devices perfect? No they aren’t but for what I do and how I have things going, they fit a lot better. So this is where I currently stand. In the present with the world of smart phones that can do more than their humble predecessors ever thought about doing.

Conclusion

I want to thank you all for taking this little journey with me. Maybe some of you are old enough to remember some of the older technology that I’ve touched on in this post. I’m trying to figure out what my next post will be. I might do some technology reviews about hardware or software, another nostolgic journey about progress of technology or who knows. Stick around to find out!

A thing called Life

Hello,

Sorry for my absence.  Life kind of threw me some curve balls as of late. From the holidays hitting us to issues in my own personal life, I had not been keeping this blog as active as I had wanted it.

Now I have somewhat of a reprieve, I’m going to get to it.  I have quite a few things planned and I’m hoping soon that I can get them moving along.

Not only will I be posting things here but I will be having some podcasts dealing with technology mostly and I will have a YouTube channel with some demos of different software, techniques as well as some personal IMHO reviews.

I know that this ride has been slow going but like the slow climb of a roller coaster, we’re almost there and ready to rock!