No Safety Net?

There are circus performers around the world that pride themselves on being able to successfully walk across the tightrope in the Big Top without having a safety net under them to catch them should they fall. They get paid well for the risks they take. Are you using your Mac without a safety net of a backup plan? If so, perhaps you should consider backing up your Mac’s data before it’s too late.

When I first got my Mac in 1989, I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, this Mac has a 20 megabyte hard drive! I’ll never fill that up!” Nowadays, I have
individual data files that are 20 megabytes or larger in size. We sure have come a long way in the amounts of hard drive storage space available to us on our Macs. Not only do we have space for many programs, we have lots of space for those things that are near and dear to us: our photos, our music, and our videos. Can you afford to lose these? For many of you, the answer is probably no and this is why you should consider a backup plan. This blog entry is for those of you who answered, “No.”

“Backup” defined
Merriam-Webster defines “backup” as “3 : a copy of computer data (as a file or the contents of a hard drive); also : the act or an instance of making a backup”

Some considerations you should make when developing a back up plan for your Mac(s): How many Macs do you want to back up? Are the Macs networked? If so, are they on a wired (i.e. Ethernet) network or a wireless network or a combination of the two? Are the Macs desktops or laptops or a mixture of both?

My personal experience has been that all
successful backup plans should be ones that you don’t have to think about or do anything beyond the initial setup. If you have to think about doing a backup, you’ll probably procrastinate doing it...I know because it is human nature to want to put off onerous tasks like data backups.

I’m often asked how one should backup their Mac(s). The answer depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. There are many ways to backup data on a computer. I’ll only touch on a few ways here. First, there are “full backups” and “incremental backups.” Full backups are complete backups of your data. In other words, if you do a full backup of one drive to another, the second drive should be identical to the first drive (although the second drive may not necessarily be “bootable” - more on that later in this blog entry). If you do an incremental backup to another drive, it will only back up the data that has changed since the previous full backup. Full backups can take quite a while depending on the amount of data that needs to be backed up. Incremental backups generally are much faster. The most important thing is to find a backup routine that works for you and one that you will continue to use.

Time Machine

Time Machine is a backup application installed on every Mac that is running either 10.5 “Leopard” or 10.6 “Snow Leopard.” The default location for the Time Machine’s icon is in your Dock so it’s probably still there. If not, check to make sure it’s in your Applications folder. When you first configure Time Machine, you indicate which drive it should use to perform backups. Once configured, Time Machine will keep hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. When the backup drive gets full, Time Machine will automatically delete the oldest backups. Time Machine does a full backup the first time you configure it and then incremental backups afterwards. It is important to note that Time Machine backups are
not bootable.

As an aside, for Mac laptops, I wholeheartedly recommend the combination of a Time Capsule (a wireless router with a built-in hard drive made by Apple) and Time Machine. Once configured properly, backups occur wirelessly and, most importantly, in the background. You don’t have to think about just works. In my humble opinion, this combination is the most convenient and easiest backup method for Mac laptops. Should your Mac’s hard drive mechanically fail and need to be replaced with a new hard drive, you’ll have to reinstall the operating system and then use Apple’s Migration Assistant to restore the Time Machine-backed up data to your Mac. You could potentially be dead in the water until you replace the hard drive and install the operating system and restore the Time Machine data. You can also use Time Machine with your Mac laptop and back up to external hard drives as well but the backup process may not be as convenient and easy.


For desktop Macs, I usually recommend SuperDuper! It’s an inexpensive, shareware application that completely automates the backup process and tells you, in plain English, what is going to happen the next time the backup begins. By purchasing the software, you can also schedule backups to run by themselves even when you’re not at your Mac. It can also create bootable backups which not all backup programs do. What that means is that should your original drive stop functioning, you can actually boot your Mac from the backup drive. SuperDuper! can create full and incremental backups, too. You can run SuperDuper! without paying for it but you cannot schedule backups which, in my humble opinion, is not the easiest or more effective plan. If you have to think about doing a backup, you probably won’t so I respectfully suggest that you help the software developers at Shirt Pocket software buying paying for and registering your copy of SuperDuper! The software works with both internal and external (i.e. FireWire 400/800, USB 2.0, and eSATA) hard drives. So whether you have an extra internal hard drive in your Mac Pro tower or an external hard drive connected to your iMac or MacBook, SuperDuper! has you covered! Trust me, SuperDuper! is worth every penny of its $27.95 price tag. Please note that you can also use Time Machine with desktop Macs and back up to external hard drives but the backups will not be bootable.

Final Thoughts
Regardless of which methods you implement, implementing them is half the battle. The other half is to occasionally test your backup drives to ensure that they are really backing up the data you think they are. You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to discover that the backup plan you thought was in place and working, was, in fact, not working.

If I can be of service in developing an effective and efficient backup plan for you and your Mac(s), please don’t hesitate to
contact me as I will be glad to assist you!


Archiving Computer Data – A Constant Struggle

I often recommend to my clients that do not currently have a backup regimen to consider adding one to help minimize the chance of data loss. After all, can one stand the thought of losing cherished digital photos, music that was painstakingly ripped from personal compact discs, financial data from programs like Quicken and QuickBooks, or anything else they may have created and would be irreplaceable if lost? A backup regimen could help minimize the pain of data loss. But what about historical data that you've accumulated over the years? Do you think you're safe given you have that info backed up somewhere? Think again. The passage of time can be your worst enemy with respect to backed up data.

Recently, I was asked to pull data from a 3.5" 800KB floppy disk for a local church. Remember floppy disks? For Mac users, this was the primary means of "backing up" data from the Mac's inception in 1984 to a few years after Steve Jobs introduced the iMac without a 3.5" floppy disk drive (1998) and declared the floppy disk was dead. My first "modern" Mac laptop was a 2000 G3 "Pismo" PowerBook and it had all "modern" ports such as USB 1.1, FireWire 400, and a whopping 12GB hard drive and 128MB of RAM. It, however, lacked a floppy disk, which frankly, I did not miss one bit. Just to be on the safe side, though, I bought an external 3.5", USB-based 1.44MB floppy drive in case I had to read a 3.5" disk on occasion. Truth is - I rarely, if ever, used it. Getting back to my data recovery efforts, I realized I could not use the external USB 3.5" floppy drive to read this disk. See, external USB 3.5" floppy drives cannot read any disk format other than 1.44MB floppies. So, if you have a 400KB/800KB Mac-formatted floppy disk or a 720KB PC-formatted floppy disk, you're "up the proverbial polluted tributary without means of locomotion" if you catch my drift.

As time goes by, new media styles come out and replace old media styles. For example, 8" floppies were replaced by 5 1/4" floppies which, in turn, were replaced with 3.5" floppies, which in turn, were replaced by Zip disks as files got larger, which in turn, were themselves replaced by CD-Rs and DVD-Rs. People are starting to use USB pen drives or "thumb" drives now in place of burning CDs and DVDs. The question you have to ask yourself is "Will the computer I'm using in the future be able to read the media on which I archived my data in the past?" Put another way, "Will the computer I'm using in the future be able to read [Gentle Reader, insert media choice here] on which I archived my data in the past?"

Additionally, media used for archiving digital information does have a "life span." Floppy disks don't last forever and are susceptible to damage or erasure by magnetic sources (e.g. stereo speakers, some CRT monitors) and, given they have moving parts, sometimes those parts just fail. Gentle Reader, if you've ever used Zip disks, for example, then you may be familiar with the infamous Zip disk "
Click of Death" syndrome. When CDs/DVDs were introduced, it was claimed that they offered a 100+ year life span but some say that life span isn't nearly as long as what we were told. Even solid-state USB "thumb" or "pen" drives have a maximum read/write point and they be very prone to data loss if not ejected properly. The point is the actual media itself may not stand the test of time. If the media doesn't stand the test of time, the data you've archived on it may not last as long as you'd like.

Another point to consider is the application that you created your data file with in the first place may not be around in the future. Even if the application still exists, the current version may not be able to open your old file. For example, will you be able to access that TurboTax tax return from 2003 without having the TurboTax application that created it? To further complicate the matter, your current computer may not be able to even run that application due to operating system incompatibilities and/or physical hardware issues (i.e. lack of a floppy disk drive).

So what should you consider, Gentle Reader, when archiving important data? Consider archiving your data in the most common data formats available at the time you are archiving on media that is the most prevalent. Today, that would be text files (also known as ASCII text), PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and JPEGs (for graphic files). Put those files on the media you reasonably think will be around during the next 3-5 years. Today, that would be CDRs, DVDs, and solid-state USB "thumb" or "pen" drives. You should also plan to copy those files over to new media types as they become available so that your data is always physically accessible. Likewise, you should update your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets so that the latest and greatest Office applications can read the data. If you've used Office over a period of several years, you may know that the
file formats have changed gradually over time.

Files like text files, PDFs, and JPGs shouldn't have to be updated very often as those file formats have been around for many years and haven't changed all that much. In fact, text files have been around in their current form since the mid-1980s and PDFs and JPGs have been around since the early 1990s. Chances are that those formats will be around for many more years to come. Give some thought, though, to using "standardized" programs at the time the files are created and then, as time goes by, update those files to the "standardized" programs that you're using in the future. As you may recall, WordPerfect was once the "king of the hill" with respect to word processing programs on the PC platform. In other words, it was once the standard word processing program. Gradually, however, WordPerfect was replaced with Microsoft's Word. Today, it can be said that Word is the standard word processing program. As a result, you should consider upgrading from what was once the standard program to the new standard program. So now is the time to upgrade those WordPerfect files to Word. Mac users may remember a time when MacWrite was the dominant word processing program. After all, it came with all new Macs. Gradually, MacWrite's dominance was overtaken by Word and Word has been the dominant word processor on the Mac since the late '80s or early '90s.

In conclusion, archiving data is not a "one and done" process. You have to remain vigilant as to popularity of the archiving media you're using, its lifespan, and the compatibility of the files you have archived with outdated applications with their modern versions. You should periodically update your files and media to ensure that they will be accessible, readable and useable in the future.


Troubleshooting Home Networks

As a Mac consultant, I am often called to a client’s house to help troubleshoot a bad network connection. More often than not, there is “garbage” in the network somewhere and simply needs to be “flushed out.” The easiest and most effective way to do this is to unplug the power cord to your Cable/DSL modem, unplug the power cord to your wired or wireless router if you have one (e.g. Apple’s Airport or Time Capsule, Linksys, or Netgear brands, etc.), and then shutting down all of the computers and devices that you have connected to your home network (e.g. Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, etc.).

Once everything has been powered off, plug the Cable/DSL modem in first and wait about 10-15 seconds. After you’ve waited 10-15 seconds, plug in the wired/wireless router (if applicable) and wait about 10-15 seconds. After you’ve waited 10-15 seconds, turn on your Mac or other networked devices. The order in which you power everything on is critical as is waiting a few seconds before powering on the next device. More often than not, simply cycling the power to all components in your home network (i.e. Cable/DSL modem, wired/wireless router, and computers) will help get you back online quickly. In other words, don’t expect to only power off/on half of your network and expect it to work; power all of your network components off/on (see diagram below).

If cycling the power to all of the networking components doesn’t fix your slow Internet surfing, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. Please keep in mind that your Cable/DSL modem and wired/wireless routers (if you have a router at all), stay powered on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year and they do wear out after a few years. If you notice an abrupt, large degradation in speed while surfing and that slowness surfing remains there for more than a few days, your Cable/DSL modem may be on its way out. The cure to slow surfing may be a quick and easy Cable/DSL modem replacement. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) (e.g. Time Warner Cable, BellSouth, etc.) for information on how to do that.

Recommended Way to Power On/Off Your Home Network


One Way Or Another

Blondie’s 1978 song “One Way or Another” comes to mind when I think of how music is being sold today - I can hear Debbie Harry belt out, “One way or another I'm gonna find ya / I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha”. Consumers have more choices than ever before to legally buy music as inexpensively as possible.

In fact, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research firm, about 40% of all music sold in the world today is sold online through vendors such as iTunes and This is a five percentage point gain, year-over-year, since Q1 2009. NPD indicated that, as of last quarter, Apple’s iTunes holds 70% of the digital music market followed by Amazon’s AmazonMP3 at 12%.

So what of the 60% majority? This represents music sold in the traditional CD format and the biggest players are Wal-Mart with 17% share of retail market. Following Wal-Mart is Best Buy with 14% and Amazon’s brings up the rear at 11%.

What’s interesting is that some analysts are saying that as digital sales increase, the firms still selling music in the traditional CD format may find themselves scaling back their business and may result in less variety of CDs being stocked. As a result of this vicious circle, it is possible that more and more music shoppers may be forced to search for music elsewhere either by ordering the CDs online or buying digital downloads.

I cannot honestly say that I’ll miss physical CDs. I was among the first in my neighborhood to have a CD player back in 1985 (the CD made its way to the United States in March 1983). During the first few years of buying CDs, I felt the record companies “stuck it” to consumers by charging high prices for CDs (~$17.98) relative to the most popular format of the time, the audio
cassette and by packaging CDs in the ridiculous “longbox” format allegedly to reduce “shrinkage” (i.e. shoplifting). Nowadays, there are alternatives to physical media in the form of digital downloads. There’s no waste with digital downloads and their availability allows consumers to by the specific songs they want instead of being forced to buying an album for one or two songs that they like and for a low price usually around $1.

Just goes to show you that the “Good Old Days” may not be as “good” as we would like to remember! I, for one, will keep buying music in the digital download format instead of CDs. That’s not to say I won’t buy an album I really like on CD from time to time but I believe the CD’s era is ending and ending soon.

NPD Group’s article can be found


Apple is world’s biggest tech company by value

I’ve been an Apple user since 1985 and a Mac user, specifically, since 1989 and in the 25 years of following all things Apple, I’ve seen Apple’s lows and highs. Today was another high for Apple - at the close of the New York Stock Exchange, Apple’s market capitalization of $222 billion (the total dollar market value of all of Apple’s outstanding shares) was higher than Microsoft’s market capitalization of $219 billion. In fact, at the close of the Market today, Apple is the second largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization behind only ExxonMobil!

This is an amazing accomplishment for Apple. I remember taking an Organization Behavior class during my undergraduate work at the University of South Carolina in the early ‘90s where we read a case study on Apple. We learned how Apple essentially owned the personal computer and educational markets but, through some strategic and tactical blunders, gave up its market share to computers running MS-DOS and, later, Windows.

Since Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in the late ‘90s, Apple has experienced quite a renaissance. It has not always been smooth sailing for Apple since Jobs’ return but it’s had far more successes (e.g. iPod, iPhone, iMacs, etc.) than less successful ventures (e.g. hockey puck-shaped mice, the Cube, the iPod Hi-Fi, etc.). Apple is delivering not only the products that people want but products that “just work.”

Congratulations Apple! A job well done!

For more information, please refer to the Financial Times article


Hello? Is there anyone out there?

I'm sure everyone who has ever written a blog has asked this question about their blog. Now I find myself asking that question. Since getting off the Hamster Wheel of Corporate America™ and starting my own computer consulting company, I have been experimenting with many different things in my business to see what "sticks" and what doesn't. Frankly, I'm not sure where blogging is in that range. So, Gentle Reader, I ask that if you're regularly checking out the Tech Me Back blog or even if you occasionally peruse it, please drop me a line by clicking here and letting me know you're out there and what you'd like for me to write about.

Alternatively, you can post your comments by simply clicking on the “Comments” link at the bottom-left of any blog entry, log into your Google or Yahoo or Twitter account to validate your posting, and post your thoughts.

Thanks for your support!

RAM, Memory, Hard Disk, Oh My!

I am often asked what's the difference between "RAM", "memory" and "hard disk space." Without going into a whole lot of TechnoBabble, "RAM" and "memory" are interchangeable but "hard disk space" is different. Think of "RAM" or "memory" as "short-term memory." By way of an analogy, RAM/memory is like someone rattles off a phone number that you need and you say it to yourself just long enough to remember the numbers when dialing your phone. By contrast, think of "hard disk space" as a notepad where you write down the number instead of simply trying to remember the number. It takes longer to write that number down but you now have a permanent record that you can store for a long time. In short, a "long-term memory."

Reading from/writing to RAM/memory is many times faster than writing to a hard disk. When faced with a lack of actual RAM/memory, modern day computers compensate by using hard drive space to temporarily store data and this is known as "virtual memory." This will allow your computer to do more things (e.g. running additional programs) even though it really doesn't have enough physical RAM/memory to do so. The drawback, however, is that reading from/writing to a hard disk is much slower than reading from/writing to RAM/memory. As a result, the additional programs will load and run but you'll notice quite a bit of lag or lack of responsiveness. On the Mac, you may even notice the dreaded "beachball" or "pinwheel". If you see this often, consider augmenting your Mac's RAM/memory.


(Keep Feeling) Fascination (Part IV)

Sometime in the early to mid-1990s, computers became, for the most part, pedestrian and commonplace. Costs were brought down by efficiencies in manufacturing and scale to the point where computers were affordable by all. Like the VCR, the personal computer became ubiquitous. By then, there were only two mainstream personal computer operating systems left: Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Macintosh. Even I was succumbing to the feeling that computers were now blasé.

In less than four years during the ‘90s, Apple went through three CEOs and it seemed that its days were numbered as the only other major manufacturer of home computers that were not based on the Windows operating system. It became further marginalized when many of the Macintosh's unique features were copied and incorporated into Windows '95. Little by little, Apple's market share plummeted into the low single digits.

All that changed in 1998 when the colorful, egg-shaped, "Bondi Blue" iMac came on the scene. Steve Jobs was now back at the helm of Apple after being forced out by Apple's Board of Directors in 1985 and he was making products that stood out and grabbed people’s attention like the iMac. Like its 1984 ancestor, the iMac forced another paradigm shift in the ways computers were used. Gone were the standards Mac users have become accustomed to: SCSI hard drives and connections, proprietary serial cables, the ADB connections, etc. Replacing many of those connections was a new kind of port – the Universal Serial Bus port or USB port for short. Apple was late to the game in shipping computers with USB ports. PCs had been shipping with USB ports for a year or more but it wasn't until Apple came out with them on the iMac that peripheral manufacturers started making devices like printers, modems, scanners, etc. that could utilize these new ports. In short, if you wanted to be able to do anything with these new iMacs, you had to find a USB-based peripheral. Apple made sure there were plenty of USB-equipped printers and other devices early adopters could connect to their new iMacs. Microsoft that same year released Windows ’98 Second Edition which allowed Windows users to use many of the USB-based peripherals on its platform.

Many times since the iMac's introduction, Apple may not have been first in releasing a clever product but it always incorporated an easy-to-use interface with its products and the hardware and software worked in tandem to provide the end users with the best experience possible. We've seen this with the iPod, iTunes (Apple was the first company to show the music labels that it was actually possible sell legal copies of music online and make a profit doing so!), the iPhone and, most recently, the iPad. Apple wasn't first with most of these products – there were mp3 players before the iPod, there were all makes and model cell phones, and there have been many "tablet PCs." The difference is, though, Apple made them not only viable but successful and easy to use.

Nearly 30 years later, I am still fascinated by home computers, Apples in particular, and how they can enrich our lives. I can only imagine what the next 30 years will be like. One thing's for certain, however, I know that I will continue to be fascinated with computers just like I was back in 1982.


(Keep Feeling) Fascination (Part III)

In 1989, the captivating Apple Macintosh opened my eyes yet again to what a personal computer can do for people. I was a student at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. I would study in the library as I could concentrate on my studies there like no other place including my dorm room. Oddly enough, the quietest place in the library was directly across from the four computers the library had. There were two MSDOS-based computers with amber-colored monochrome monitors that shared a shrill and noisy dot matrix printer on one side of a table and two small, cute looking black-and-white Macintosh SEs that shared a laser printing leviathan called a "LaserWriter IInt" on the other side. Over the many weeks of sitting across from the table holding the computers, I noticed an interesting phenomena: people came in, sat down, typed their papers on the Macs and documents would come out of the laser printer as if they had been professionally typeset. In fact, the printed documents looked exactly as they had on the screen. I was told this was because the Macs' WYSIWYG experience and the Mac's GUI. It was all Greek to me, but intriguing nonetheless. By contrast, people would come in, sit down at the MSDOS machines and struggle with them or the printers often asking me for help. I politely declined saying I didn't know anything about computers...unless, of course, she was cute. I got my first Macintosh, a Mac SE, in 1989 because I felt that computers in the future would be more like a Macintosh than like the kludgy MSDOS-based ones I had seen being "used" in college.


(Keep Feeling) Fascination (Part II)

In the coming months after my discovery of the computer, I was completely and utterly hooked. My Dad, who worked in the computer data storage industry, spent many hours encouraging me to learn all I wanted to know about computers by buying me manuals, books and even a TRSDOS (the Tandy Radio Shack Disk Operating System) floppy for a whopping $49.95 at the Radio Shack that was in Five Points near the University of South Carolina. I learned to write simple programs and spent hours after hours typing in programs from magazines like Family Computing and 80 Micro into the computer and saving them on 5 1/4" floppy disks.

Simultaneously, the home computer was becoming the newest thing to have. Back then, though, there were many different manufacturers of computers and each manufacturer had a completely different way to do things and their operating systems were completely different (read: "incompatible"). I used a TRS-80 Model III with 32K of RAM at school but had no computer at home at the time. My neighbor across the screen had an
Atari 400 (a great game machine but a so-so computer!) and another neighbor down the street had a TI-99/4a with a speech synthesizer which was really neat. Yes, the Ti-99/4a's speech synthesizer sounded like Robbie the Robot when it spoke, but in 1982, it was the coolest thing I had ever heard! All of these machines were so different from one another and all were fascinating. It was all so new!

Even Hollywood got on the proverbial bandwagon with these new things known as computers. In 1982, my family went to see "Tron" and saw a man get sucked into a computer and have to fight his way out. In less than a year later, we were fascinated at the prospect that a "nerd" by the name of David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) and his
IMSAI 8080 computer could somehow touch off World War III by triggering a launch of our ICBMs and blowing up the Soviet Union. We witnessed the dark possibilities that computers might someday become "self-aware" and wreak havoc on humankind in 1984's "The Terminator."

There was no escaping the newness of computers on the small screen of television either. TV shows seem to suggest that computers could do anything. Who could forget "Knight Rider" and the KITT computer inside the baddest Trans-Am out there? It seemed that Rock Hudson could find out anything he needed to by logging his Apple ][e onto some mysterious computer system in "The Devlin Connection." Computers seemed to be everywhere and they were the "it" thing to have both in the movies and in real life!

Apple forced a paradigm shift in the ways computers operated with the introduction of the
Macintosh in 1984. The Mac was the first home computer that would incorporate the aspects we would later accept and embrace: the Graphical User Interface (GUI) with its WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") capabilities. It also ushered in the ubiquitous 3 1/2" floppy disk, the mouse and later the laser printer and desktop publishing software.

Dad and I liked the Macintosh but he felt that there was little software available for it at the time and that it was a tad limited in terms of its memory – only 128K at the time – given it was graphical-based instead of text-based like the rest of the computers out there. In April of 1985, Dad bought us an Apple //e Enhanced with a DuoDisk drive and a green, monochrome monitor, and the Apple //e Mouse.

This was our first "home computer." In ninth grade, I typed my first paper on a computer. The Apple had replaced the IBM Selectric II typewriter for me almost overnight. Nearly all papers in school were "neatly handwritten" then. On rare occasions, a teacher would receive a paper that had been typed on a traditional typewriter. At the time, I think the first paper typed on a computer and reproduced on paper by a "printer" that my teachers had seen was from me! I cannot say that the program I used was a "word processor" per se, as I could not do anything with the program other than compose text and move text around by selecting it and cutting it or copying it and pasting it where I wanted it to be located. I couldn't underline or boldface anything. Later, I was told it was called a "text editor."

In any event, I graduated to an all-in-one program called, "AppleWorks" that had a word processor (which would let me boldface and underline words!), database and spreadsheet, and have typed all of my papers on a computer since then. Today, a typed paper is commonplace and probably required. Back in the mid-'80s, it was all new and fascinating.


(Keep Feeling) Fascination (Part I)

My apologies to the Human League, but I cannot think of a better way to describe my feelings about computers and technology. Why you may ask? Because 28 years later I still find myself in awe and wonder of what computers do for us and the endless possibilities they bring to us.

Although I was exposed to computers in the late 1970s (remember the
TRS-80 Model I from Radio Shack?) when my Dad and I would go to Lionel Playworld and then to Radio Shack on Saturdays, the first time I really spent with a computer was in 1982. We moved to Columbia, South Carolina from south Florida that year. Being 12-years-old, I found myself in a place where everything I knew had changed. The surroundings had changed. The people were different. I was changing physically and emotionally. I didn't have many friends then and I became quite introverted – kept to myself and read a lot. About the only real social interaction with kids my age that wasn't while at school was either meeting them at the local arcade on the weekends and playing all sorts of cool video games (remember Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Frogger?) or playing with them at home on my Atari 2600 during the weekdays after homework of course!

As a seventh grader, I did my best to not be noticed. I felt like I had nothing in common with my fellow students. One day while in the library, I came across a machine I had never seen before but fascinated me instantly. It was nestled in a carrel in the back section of the library near the Librarian's Office. Its sleek, silvery lines and inky black keys and futuristic look drew my eyes to it. "What is this?" I asked the librarian. She said, "It's a computer." I'm sure that even then, it was a factually correct statement but one that left me with more questions than answers. "What can you do with it?" I asked still puzzled by the librarian's earlier response. "You can do all sorts of things with it. You can program games and it can help you with your homework," she replied. I didn't know what "program" meant but I was intrigued that this machine could do something, anything, for me given it was just sitting there not doing anything that I could tell. The librarian could tell that I didn't know how to make heads or tails of this new silvery box so she came over and slid her hand under the right front part of the machine and flipped a switch and it came to life with a grinding sound. Looking over where the grinding sound was coming from, I saw a black and silver badge which read, “Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III Microcomputer.”

Within a moment, a blocky image appeared on the screen that appeared to be an outline of the computer itself and it read, "TRS-80 Model III TRSDOS version 1.3 Wed Jul 1, 1981 32K System, Number of Drives = 2" along with some other text that I didn't really understand. The last line read, "Enter Date (MM/DD/YY)?"

"Have at it," The librarian said to me. Before I could voice any question, comment, concern or apprehension, she disappeared behind the Dutch door of the Librarian's Office. What do I do now? I sat there watching the blinking block of what I later learned was called the "cursor" taunting me. My 12-year-old mind struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. So I did what any person encountering something he had no understanding of - break it down into smaller pieces of things that I did know and understand. "OK," I said. "The typewriter lets me show letters on the TV screen." Yes, Virginia, I was slowly starting to figure this "computer" thingy out.


Veni, vidi, vici

For those of you Gentle Readers that remember your history, “Veni, vidi, vici" is the phrase widely attributed to Julius Caesar in 47 B.C. as a comment on his short war with Pharnaces II of Pontus. As many of you know, when translated into English, it means, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” And that’s exactly what the iPad is going to do with its competition: other “tablet” computers and netbooks.

Apple’s iPad was released into the wild today and I had the pleasure to use one for quite a while today. As an early adopter of the iPhone back in 2007, I had pretty much dismissed the iPad as an oversized, glorified iPhone or iPod Touch. After using an iPad today, though, I have changed my mind. It’s way more than just that - it truly is a small, lightweight “laptop” computer. Immediately, I could see one of Apple’s target audiences: older clients who may not have more extensive computing needs other than checking email, surfing the Internet wirelessly, sharing photos with friends and family, keeping their address books up today, listening to music and watching videos. The iPad is also a surefire “win” for folks with desktop Macs who would like to do some light computing when away from their desktops but don’t want to spend nearly at $1,000 or more on a Mac laptop to do so.

To be sure, with the hundreds of thousands of available iPhone/iPod Touch applications or “apps” at the iTunes Store and hundreds of iPad apps already out there, the functionality of the iPad will only increase. Check out the iPad for’ll be glad you did!

34 Years of "Thinking Different"

It’s no April Fool’s joke - Apple is 34 years old today! Happy Birthday Apple!

Jump in the
DeLorean Time Machine with me and we’ll go back to 1976 when Gerald Ford was the President of the United States, gas was 59¢ per gallon and America hadn’t quite celebrated its bicentennial. In a little garage in Cupertino, California, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs created a company called, “Apple Computer.”

To be sure, Apple has had its shares of ups and downs but I feel the personal computer market would not be the same if Apple had folded like many of its contemporaries such as Commodore, Atari, TRS-80. I’d argue we’re better off that Apple not only survived those fragile years of its infancy but grew and prospered. Here’s to many more birthdays, Apple!

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Good question, Juliet. So why “Tech Me Back” for the name of my consulting business? My good friend Brian and I were thinking of starting a blog in which we discuss how to utilize older technology today. He and I are both technology junkies and we always liked the latest gadgets and gizmos. We were talking about how sad that even though today’s state-of-the-art technology becomes tomorrow’s behind-the-times technology and the day after tomorrow’s obsolete technology, people relegate otherwise useful, but somewhat dated, technology to the junk heap and don’t think twice about it.

When I decided the time had come to get off the proverbial hamster wheel of Corporate America and start my own Macintosh consulting business, I struggled in coming up with a name that reflects what my business does. Unfortunately for me, I could not use any of Apple’s trademarks in my name. As you might imagine, it’s hard to describe the product you support when you cannot mention it in your company’s name! I thought back to the name that Brian actually came up with and about the blog we had discussed and then it hit me. Why not use “Tech Me Back”? But how does it apply to what I’m doing? I thought about it and realized that people wanted to go back to the days when technology worked for them instead of hindered them. Hence, “Tech Me Back.”

On Apple's Consultant Locator!

Yes! I am finally showing up in Apple’s Consultant Locator. Take a look by visiting Apple’s site here.