Parallels Desktop Bundle

Just a quick update, all of the applications in the MacUpdate Parallels Bundle have been unlocked. That’s right, for 64.99 you can get Parallels with nine other apps. These are the full versions of said software and the cost is less than the price of Parallels alone. So, if you are in need of Parallels and think you might be interested in some of the other applications in the bundle, hurry over to MUPromo and snag a copy. Move fast, the bundle is only available for four more days.

This isn’t just science, it’s…..

Good Eats.

Alton Brown’s new book Feasting On Asphalt: The River Run is out and he made a book signing stop in Jackson today. Alton hosts several shows on The Food Network including Good Eats and Iron Chef America. He has added to this list a new show that he works on from time to time called Feasting on Asphalt. The first season he hopped on his motorcycle and cruised the backroads of America from the east coast to the west coast. Along the way he discovered lots of down home diners that hearken back to the “good ole days” of going out to eat. With the success of that he went on and did a second season where he started down in Louisiana and rode his way up the mighty Mississippi River looking for more of those hidden gems of dining.

Now I have lived in Mississippi all of my life and I am a huge fan of Alton’s shows. So when I heard yesterday that he would be in town to sign his new book … well I left work early and spent about four hours at Lemuria Books to have a moment with my culinary hero. As a matter of fact, I had three. The first of which threw me off balance just a bit. I was waiting in my spot in line well outside the doors of the bookstore and he came walking up while I was talking with the guy next to me. Alton put on that quirky smile and asked, “What are all of these people here for?” Now because I was in mid conversation and I didn’t actually look up to see who spoke, my mouth kicked in before my conscious brain picked up what my eyes saw. So I just grinned and blurted out, “We’re waiting on you.” He chuckled and said, “Oh, really?” and walked away before I realized what just happened. Once he was a few feet away it hit me that I just had a witty moment with Alton Brown.

Fortunately I had plenty of time to wait before I finally got up to him to get my books signed. By then I had calmed down a bit and got a chance to mention to him that the Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi is a place I know well because I have family there. We exchanged a few cursory pleasantries while he signed the books and then I turned around to hand my phone to someone so I could get a picture. Behind me was a small herd of children that all appeared to be less than 10 years old. Not wanting to hold up the line, I just stepped down with the taste of bitter disappointment that I would not have anything more than a few drops of Sharpie ink and my questionable memory to preserve this moment. Then it occurred to me that I am a stubborn individual that will accomplish what I set out to do.

Since I knew about a dozen people in line and one of the ladies that works at the bookstore, I hung around chatting until the line finally dwindled down to about 6 people. I took my spot at the end of the line, fair is fair after all, and eventually wandered back up to him. When I stepped up he said, “You again?” in that funny exaggerated way he has. So I told him I didn’t get my picture because of the gaggle of small children behind me. He laughed and said, “They kind of freaked you out, didn’t they?” I agreed and he said, “They kind of freaked me out too.” He had made several comments throughout the signing about his amazement at the sheer amount of progeny he encountered at this signing. So with that I finally got my picture with my greatest hero and a wonderful memory of how I met him. Like AB says…”You’re patience will be rewarded.”

Me and AB

And let me add…OMG!!!!


A Mac Software Deal

MacUpdate is currently running a software bundle special. The MUPromo bundle has 10 full versions of shareware apps for the price of 64.99. Most notable is Parallels Desktop. This is the application that lets you run Windows in a virtual space inside of OS X. Other applications include handy tools from file management to programs that integrate iCal into your menu bar clock. Now, since the total cost for these applications separately would run somewhere over $250, one might wonder if there is a catch. Well, the answer is yes and no.

Yes there is a catch of sorts. Three of the applications are “locked”. That is, they do not come with the license keys for the full versions. What happens is that as more of these bundles are sold, these applications become “unlocked” and everyone that has purchased the bundle get the license key sent to them for the full version. Once 5,000 are sold, Sound Studio will be unlocked. Then you get BannerZest at 10,000 and finally Parallels at 15,000. This should not be a deterrent to getting the package. On the contrary, it should encourage everyone with a Mac to pick up the bundle.

Rewards Cards Overload

As I am making my daily journey through the blogosphere, I ran across a post on Lifehacker about streamlining your wallet. The idea has some merit. The gist is that you put all of the barcode numbers for the 9083742987 rewards cards you have on your cell phone so you can remove a metric ton of useless paper and plastic from your wallet or purse. It has some promise but I feel it is too cumbersome to fumble through my address book for all these numbers and then have to type them in or read them out to a clerk who is most likely bored with life in general. After all, I am not putting my phone in their hands.

So while reading through the comments on the article somebody mentioned Just One Club Card. Now this is a great idea. I can take eight cards and turn them into one. Simply fill out the form and click submit. Print the resulting page which has your new card on it and there you go. Cut it out, laminate it, and toss those originals in the junk drawer. The site has a pretty impressive collection of stores in the list that you can add to your card and you can send in a request for new ones to be added if one you want is not listed.

There isn’t a lot to the site on the visual side, but then you aren’t going to go there for the eye candy. It appears they are working on adding more bar code types which will allow other cards to be condensed. In case you weren’t aware, there are more than a handful of different bar code styles. Some of them are only subtly different but the differences are enough to really screw things up if you use the wrong type.

With an 8:1 compression ratio on my cards (most of which make my keyring qualify as a lethal weapon), I can say that this is definitely a tool worth checking out.

Apples aren’t all roses

Don’t get me wrong, I love my new iMac. It’s sleek, fast, and easy to use. Every program I use regularly at home on my Vista laptop has an OS X counterpart. But I do have a bone to pick with Jobs’ company about one thing. While the overall prices of the base models are in line with the cost of PC’s with similar specs…prices on the upgrades are somewhere in the realm of stupid.

Have you priced memory lately? The iMac uses PC2-5300 SODIMM RAM chips. I can buy 4GB of RAM (2x2GB sticks) for less than $80. I can get it for less than $65 if I don’t care about branding. So tell me, Apple, why does the 4GB upgrade cost $500?? Exactly what kind of crack are you smoking? Going from a 250GB to 500GB SATA HDD is an increase of $149. The retail cost difference is less than $30. As a matter of fact, a 3GB/s 500GB SATA HDD is less than $100. So tell me what the hell is wrong with you people?

I understand the basic concept of capitalism. I know that all companies are out to make money. But these prices aren’t reasonable. They aren’t acceptable. They’re insane and outrageous. I will gladly buy a new iMac when this one becomes too underpowered for what I want to do. But listen to me, Apple. I will not purchase any of the upgrades for my system from you as long as you insist on applying these ridiculous price gouging techniques. I know how to plug in a SODIMM chip so I will be buying my memory from which will save me over $400 and leave me a 1GB chip to toss into my Vista laptop.

It’s things like this that continue to perpetuate the idea that Apple is a pompous company that is entirely too full of itself. If you ever want to shake this image and quite possibly begin seriously eating into desktop marketshares…you have to change your pricing structure. Since you haven’t changed this downright idiotic pricing scheme, I can only assume some people are dumb enough to use your upgrade options. I won’t be one of them and neither will anyone I send your way to buy from you guys.

Nothing about the design of your systems is worth the “Upgrade Stupidity Tax” you guys impose. This is by far a much greater affront to me than the “Microsoft Tax” you pay when buying from another company. So wake up, Apple. Stop feeding the fire of the “fanboys”. Get your prices in line with the rest of the world and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that you can sell more systems.

Castigations and Plagues

Alright, it’s time to get back to roots. I haven’t done a Rant in a long, long time. Welcome to the Real “SoapBoxRants”.

As I have said before, I am a Pagan. Before we go any further, go look up the definition. It means I am not Christian. It does not mean I worship Satan or sacrifice virgins. As a matter of fact, go over my previous religious rants to understand how many different ways my religion is like your religion. Now…moving on to tonight’s topic.

Why do people have a predisposition to be told what to think? What is it about the Human Race that leads the majority to follow the most charismatic person almost without question? Have we evolved so little over the millennia that we have not yet shed the shackles of our primitive tribal origins? Are we so insecure about our own existence that we need to be told by someone else that it is okay for us to be? It would seem that is the case. Much like my often mentioned Mother Culture, the Human Race almost inevitably turns to charismatic spiritual leaders and immediately takes things too far.

Take for example an email I received the other day from a devoutly Christian friend of mine. It talked about how we of the United States should boycott the new one dollar coins because of the exclusion of the phrase “In God We Trust”. I find it curious that such a movement in a country that touts its tolerance and acceptance of freedom of religion would gain ground. It almost reeks of cult brainwashing and that thought disturbs me greatly. All I have ever hoped for is to find that there are other free thinkers out there and yet at every turn I am confronted with more bigotry and prejudice. To make matters worse, these actions are justified by these people as being righteous indignation at the affront to their spiritual beliefs. It is as if they do not understand the true concept of religious freedom.

In this world, there are a myriad of religions. I would hazard that each and every one of them claims to have an exclusive insight into the understanding of whichever divine being brought forth this world and our Race. I do not claim to have such intimate divine knowledge personally so I cannot say which, if any, are correct in this claim. I do, however, take issue with any religion or practitioner of a religion that refuses basic respect and courtesy to any that have a differing belief. Just because it is different does not mean it is wrong or evil. It just means that it is not exactly like yours. There is knowledge to be gained through diversity.

And what exactly do I think about other religions? That is a wonderful question. If you were to, for argument’s sake, witness an automobile accident along with about twenty other people and all of you were interviewed by the officers that responded…you would probably get twenty-one different descriptions of what happened. In general they would touch the same high points but the details themselves would vary from one person to the next. I think the religions of the world are the same way. In general, they are all alike. They touch the same high points (like love and forgiveness) but differ in the details (like eating pork or resting on Sunday). We are all looking at the same Divine, just from a different angle than the person next to us.

And that goes for fellow practitioners of the same faith. Just because you share a religious label with someone does not mean you will have the exact same views on the Divine. I have always said that true faith and one’s relationship with the Divine is a very personal journey. Nobody will ever experience my religious path other than me. Some may share certain feelings or moments, but none will duplicate what I have inside. Remember that the next time you feel like pushing your views onto someone else. It will not matter what you try, we will never have that exact same moment that you remember with such fondness. Feel free to share your view, just do not attempt to make it my view. I will do the same.

This is one of the reasons I have such a fondness for Paganism. Wiccans and other Pagans are far more passive in the spreading of their religion. Our view is that those who are interested will seek us out and inquire. Our job is to answer the questions put forth to us. We will not attempt to convince you this is the correct path. We will simply share our knowledge and let you decide what is right for you and we will encourage you regardless of your decision. This is because we, for the most part, understand how personal this journey should be.

This is not to say that Paganism is a better path than a Buddhist or Judeo-Christian path. It is merely different. And I have to admit that there are some Pagans that will be pushy about converting just as there are Christians who are passive. There are no absolutes where Religion is concerned because Faith is kept by Humanity and Humanity varies greatly. All Religions run the gamut of tolerance and openness. But from my experience, Pagans tend more toward passiveness. I think all Religions would do well to re-examine their doctrines and true purpose and get back to the core of their teachings.

Religion is a good idea run amok. Mother Culture has twisted it into a series of extremes that galvanize the world into opposing factions causing chaos and disorder and war and pain. We speak of tolerance while we treat others with intolerance. We preach of love while we practice hate and war. We speak of forgiveness while harboring grudges against those that have wronged us. This is not what any of us were taught by our Religious texts. We have gone astray. We have taken Mother Culture’s path of self destruction. Before it is too late, we need to stop and return to the path we delude ourselves into thinking we are on.

Life with an iMac

So I had the DOA Superdrive replaced. It was as easy as dropping it off Monday afternoon at User Friendly, the local Apple service center and then picking it up on my way home on Tuesday. Don’t let their website fool you, these guys are a full blown Apple retailer that really knows their stuff. I spent about an hour in there on Tuesday talking shop. I know that we are getting an official Apple Store in the Jackson, MS area, but I think I will continue to give the guys at User Friendly my business. There’s a lot to be said about a friendly atmosphere of knowledgeable people that don’t pressure you into purchases you may not want or need.

Anyway, I have since been completely re-ripping my CD collection. I wanted to have a clean and organized digital music collection without all of the fluff and chaos that has existed in my old folder. After all, I have not done a thing to straighten up the old library that I have been migrating from computer to computer over the last five or six years. It is an unholy mess and it needs to be buried. I am happy to report that the new Superdrive is working wonderfully.

As for the user interface, that is taking a little getting used to. Having no “maximize” button is definitely causing a shift in my thinking…much more so than having the windows controls (close and minimize) on the upper left corner. I am also having to remember that there really is not an equivalent to the Windows Start menu. The Dock, however has made that fairly easy since I have more than enough room for my commonly used programs.

I do like how the programs are installed as “packages” in a folder on the drive. If you want to uninstall a program, just delete the package. Simple. See, a package is like a cross between a zip file and an executable (EXE) file. Everything for that program is stored inside the package and you can browse it like one might do a zip file. But to run the program, you just double-click the package and it runs like an EXE in Windows would. This modular approach prevents the problem in Windows of remnant files and setting being left after a program is removed from the system thus avoiding the inevitable slow down of the computer over time.

I believe I mentioned that my employer is an almost purely Microsoft shop (with the exception of that one Linux system running for spam filtering). That is not a problem either. OS X can easily be configured to use a VPN connection provided by a Windows Server system without any additional software. Then with a quick download of the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client for Mac, controlling the work PC is as easy as three mouse clicks.

Did I mention that I am using this system over my wireless connection even though I am only 8-10 inches from my router? I really hated the knot of cables that used to weigh down my desk. I am also able to connect the iMac to my AT&T Tilt over bluetooth for sharing photos and music between the two systems. It is not quite as easy as using WMDC on my Vista laptop, but that is to be expected. I really would not expect an iPhone to connect and share services with a Vista computer as easily as it would with a Mac.

I have discovered that most of the software I actually use like FullTiltPoker, The GIMP, OpenOffice and Firefox all have OS X versions that function just like their Windows counterparts. That was the only real worry I had when I decided to take the plunge into the world of Mac…learning new applications. It was an unfounded worry because so much software is written for both platforms and use very similar interfaces between platforms. Open Computing is very nearly upon us. By that I mean that regardless of the OS you finally choose, you will have the same application suites available to perform the tasks at hand. All we need now is some sort of ActiveX VM for Mac and Linux so all those sites work the same cross-platform and Open Computing may very well become a reality. And isn’t choice the ultimate goal?