MacApple vs. MSWindows Home Computing Lesson 1
If I have wonder in life, among all the important things that go on, I would have to ask if anyone reads a funeral director’s blog on a website? I must confess that I would be confused by such a radio button but then again, I would be intrigued enough to simply press it – curiosity I guess but, I am not typical of a consumer audience (if the adverts I watch are anything to go by?).
Does anybody actually visit here? A rhetorical question I know but in some ways, also a test.
Some time ago, I was asked to teach basic PC skills to seniors in B.C., Canada – no, not for pay but as a community offering, a voluntary contribution for one hour a week? Since I was already volunteering for a period with Search and Rescue, I thought I would give it a try after all, browsing the Internet, teaching about emails and uploading a few photographs couldn’t be that difficult?
Having only recently decided to make the transition from PC to Apple, I was not well versed in Macs so refused the first appointment and headed headlong into a tablet, again, not my forté at the time and an uncomfortable experience for teacher and student. Never daunted by a challenge, I successfully took one senior to a higher level with a PC but failed to convince another on the merits of computing heading into old age.
I have since been asked by a beginner, if I would undertake the task again but by email or, correspondence so I have decided to write the lessons in no particular order as computing training has changed massively from when I started. Therefore there is an overwhelming desire to explain only the necessary but, quickly because we live in such exciting technological times though some of you might wonder at this stage, just what makes me tick? Am I indeed, mad?
PC (Windows) or Apple (Mac)?
I was asked recently if I considered driving on the RHS of the road to be easier than driving on the LHS? Of course there is no definitive answer but truthfully, I felt that, driving on the RHS came more naturally and was therefore smoother in my opinion. Likewise, my home (and business) computing is heavily based in Windows and I think the transition to Mac to be quite hard to start with but Mac to Windows, considerably easier – smoother so, my teachings are going to be of a dual nature but my leaning will be towards Mac but I would consider it an error not to verse everybody in the most popular system in the world, that of Microsoft.
Though this may not seem appropriate here, everybody in business these days has to be computer literate and like all my blogs, if this offers nothing for you simply move on to my other articles, thoughts and/or opinions if you so choose. I hope someone will benefit from these simple teachings and if I err on any point or subject, I would like to reiterate that I am not a professional tutor or instructor but consider these basics to be a platform from which to springboard into further areas or action.
Your comments are, as always, welcome. 10 MARCH 2016
Beginning Personal and Home Computing
Service Provider: A company providing a communication service (digital these days) of some sort so, BT (British Telecommunications), is a UK telephone landline service provider.
Orange was a UK Mobile or, Cell phone service provider.
02 IS a UK cell phone service provider.
EE is a CELLULAR (mobile) phone service provider in the UK possibly Europe too?
Virgin, Fido, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Shaw, Bell and Telus are all North American Cell phone providers. (North America = Canada + the USA).
Another type of service provider is an INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER or ISP
As the name suggests, they provide the Internet or, www. the World Wide Web.
These companies can also be Cell service providers but they don't have to be linked together in any way - really.
In Canada for example, there are two ways of delivering TV to consumers, Cable and Satellite. Generally, Cable is the popular method so, no aerials on the roof but TV signals are sent down cables to homes physically. Adding-in the Internet at the same time makes perfect sense and the service provider can charge the customer more whilst securing a contract for a long period of time. The service provider gives you email facilities for example email@example.com which effectively makes changing your service provider, harder as you would also have to change your email address to eg. firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, all the things I have signed up to as email@example.com have to be changed to firstname.lastname@example.org - a positive pain in the rear!
A quick explanation on .com; .net;.org. .co.uk; .ca
Countries can be location specific with their emails or more general. As can be seen above, a .co.uk email address would ‘suggest’ that the service provider is indeed, in the UK. .ca may appear to be in the USA - in California but it is the geographical location for Canada internationally. .com is worldwide but essentially American. Providers can use numerous options and .net is one of these as opposed to .com or .ca. .org however was designed for charities – so they would be instantaneously recognisable as, a charity but it is not restricted to charities. If you, as an individual, want your own specific email type addresses, you might find for example that email@example.com, as a choice has already been taken by someone else; you could then see if firstname.lastname@example.org was available or @ .org until you found something you liked – more on this subject a lot later.
Tidbit: If someone writes an article and posts it on the web (Internet), it is logged - a record is made. This 'log' is essentially a web log. Join the words together and we have a weblog. Of course, the word weblog is too long (?), so we shorten it to (we)blog - hence I have written a 'blog.' Easy eh.
Cell (mobile) phones - mostly moved on to larger devices now called smart phones. Smart phones have the ability to connect to the Internet via radio waves, just like the radio or TV - this is called, Wi-fi but really describes the quality of the radio waves as being of, 'wireless fidelity.’
Bluetooth is another means of radio communication but over a very short distance with little power. More on this later.
How far a radio wave travels depends on lots of things but the amount of power it is sent with and the frequency of the radio waves are the key factors. The higher the frequency, the less power to travel the same distance.
Micro waves go a long way and a long, long way with more power. We talk to satellites with micro waves - they all travel in straight lines - all radio waves. If a hill gets in the way, it blocks the wave. If a metal object gets in the way, it acts like a mirror and deflects and reflects the wave.
The next device size up is a tablet. A tablet can be any size really but it doesn't have a keyboard. You have to use a touchscreen to type. (You can also connect to a Bluetooth device eg, a Keyboard or radio type, Mouse.)
A notebook is just a small laptop with a keyboard attached.
A Laptop - as you are no doubt familiar, also has a keyboard. Typically, laptops have screens from 13" to 17' screen (diagonal measurement). All sorts of ancillary devices can be attached through physical plug-ins eg. a keyboard, a mouse, a monitor (second screen), a printer an external hard drive, a camera to name but a few
Desktop: The old style computer with a monitor or, graphics display. Still the best way to go for home computing but because of the power of laptops nowadays, no longer necessary like for example, your home landline phone - useful but, unnecessary – a cell phone will do adequately.
Every device/computer has to have an operating system. There are still a few around but let's go popular.
There are two different sorts of Operating Systems, those for Desktops, Laptops, Notebooks and those for mobile devices.
Essentially, there are three players; Apple, Microsoft and Google so, 3 players two systems makes 6 in total. (But it doesn't because Google doesn't play on computers as such just mobile devices) so there are 5 to note.
Apple: Iphone, Ipad, Ipod (MP4 Player - music/video) Macbook, Mac Mini and more - anything I, Itunes, Imovie the lot.
Microsoft: Anything Windows, Skype, MSN IBM the usual stuff.
Google: Anything Android – LG, Samsung, Sony, Nexus, Amazon Fire, Asus mobike and tons more phone and tablet wise. – especially from China.
Apple’s main computer operating system is OS X followed by numbers like, 10.1.1 This is essentially Apple’s tenth main operating system.
They also have names: Cheetah/Puma (1), Jaguar (2), Panther (3), Tiger (4), Leopard (5), Snow Leopard (6), Lion (7), Mountain Lion (8), Mavericks (9), Yosemite (10), El Capitan (11) - these are mostly easily upgraded unless the machine is too old.
Apples Mobile device OS Operating System is IOS so every tablet, Ipad iphone etc is using IOS.
Now, Windows. From the early days of DOS we went to Windows 95 which introduced the MOUSE. From there we went to Windows 98, to 2000, to Millennium, to XP (Expert) to Vista (still good) to Windows 7, to Windows 8 (A Touch screen OS that never lived up to expectations and is put down by everyone) to Windows 10.
There have been some good Windows OS but rest assured, if you don't have Windows 10, you should be on Windows 7.
Windows for mobile devices is pretty much a Windows 8 for mobile version used by Nokia and Microsoft who badge phones (Lumina) along with Nokia, note: unless you like that blocky effect, you don't need to be anywhere near a windows mobile device - stick to Android or Apple IOS. Windows have finally upgraded their mobile device platform to Windows 10 for mobile devices.
Access to the Internet comes in various ways.
Through your mobile phone service provider
through your landline phone provider (Broadband)
through wi-fi hotspots in places like Macdonald’s, the cinema, restaurant chains/outlets
The airport or even out and about in the town through people like British Telecom who transmit radio waves free of charge though you have to be a customer to log on.
You can connect to the Internet using your mobile phone and radiate short distance radio waves to another device like a tablet that does not have a SIM Card (another story) or even a printer; this is called Tethering because your are tethering your tablet to your phone (hooking up to it) - your phone is then acting as a 'hot spot'
Everybody likes to protect their personal information so, they use security to hide or, ‘password protect’ their Internet connection.
There are various levels of security or encryption but every router is set up to protect the customer/owner so only the owner can connect or, share the password with family or friends - this is mostly an over-reaction (author’s opinion) but, it is the way it is.
One day, the whole country could be covered by one big hot spot and it could be free but this is highly unlikely. There are more free hot spots in Canada than in the UK and it is not so complicated to connect to them.
Router: (pronounced r-out-er not root-er)
The router is black box device at home provided by the likes of BT (or purchased privately) to provide you with an Internet connection. You can connect a computer to this box with a cable (hard wire). For example: directly to your PC or Printer or laptop but mostly, it also transmits radio waves around your house and to some extent, outside your house too.
This is your Home Wi-Fi hub also and, with a password, anyone can connect to your home network or LAN (Local Area Network) - lets stick to Home Network.
The more devices connected, the slower each device performs and those closest to the router, will get Priority, (by distance).
Once you tell a device the password, it tends to remember it so, when you next come in range of that network, it automatically connects to it.
The router can be accessed by the user and passwords can be changed, different permissions given to different devices or people.
Every device has a unique identifier built in to it - its own personal bar code; this is called its MAC Address and is NOT to be confused with Mac as in Apple. A MAC address is a Media Access Code. In the router, I (for example), can allow you to connect your device by this MAC Address - if I choose rather than by using a password thereby increasing the security enormously. In the same way, every time you connect any device to a computer or, the Internet, its Unique Identifier tells the Internet or device, 'who' is connecting and this cannot be bypassed.
In a similar way, the IP Address (Internet Provider Address) of your router, effectively provided by the Broadband supplier eg British Telecommunications tells the Internet Service Provider and therefore the Internet, your location.
I can easily be seen to be located in Vernon BC Canada. You can be seen easily to be located in Honiton, United Kingdom.
This is important for lots of things like the weather in your location; your online shopping habits, GPS on your phone for driving to name a few but again, this is important for things we will learn later (hint: WE, in BC Canada, are not allowed to view UK TV eg BBC or ITV - international rules!) Because the Internet knows where I am from my IP Address, I can't get around this - but, I can - another day!)
Note: Though these topics may seem onerous and boring to start with, I find personally that when everyone talks about subjects I know nothing about, I feel left out, inadequate and way behind.
The truth is, it's often simply a bluff, BS and people think they have power through knowledge. Most of the time, they actually know very little to do with the subject and really, you don't need to know it all but it will make you feel more comfortable and not so, left-out and, your knowledge will be accurate.
It is harder to teach computer training at a distance but quite possible. The key is your willingness and, having a computer on which to practise.
Tidbit: You will no doubt have noticed on the television be it news, documentaries or sport, every laptop almost without exclusion is an Apple. The general public still prefers Windows so having some knowledge of both is necessary and there are lots of easy cross-overs and, similarities. Neither one is better (debatable), they are just different but Apple is recognised as far more secure and less likely to be hacked but the ways of hacking that affect us are the same basically - email and browsing or surfing - on that point, never download content that is unknown to you without serious thought especially, email attachments from your FRIENDS.
Our studies will concentrate on Apple systems but we will not ignore Windows which remains currently, the most popular operating system in the world.
We have dealt with numerous items now which, years ago would have been in the province of advanced teachings but today, they are very much the basics.
The Mouse changed the world! There are so many types of Mouse now even that would once have been confusing.
The basic Mouse has three functions: Left Click, Right Click and Moving the Mouse physically in order to place the cursor somewhere you want it on the screen/monitor.
Add to that, a wheel for scrolling, a ball to move instead of actually moving the Mouse itself; a button for going back one step; a button for going forward one step and even pressing down on the scroll wheel to fix the cursor on the screen. Of course, this complex Mouse can be attached to the computer by a cable, hard-wired or, you can insert a dongle, a small radio receiver into a USB port (more on USB and Ports later) on the computer and, by the use of a battery in the bottom of the Mouse, you can turn the Mouse into a Radio Transmitter so that it now functions wirelessly.
We don’t have a mouse on a Laptop. But, we can if we so choose but let’s look at the alternative. Obviously we can insert a cable or wired Mouse into a Laptop port or a radio Dongle for a wireless Mouse but we started with a little joystick type button followed by a touch-pad on Laptops for portability. Now we have progressed to multi function Track Pads on our Laptop computers and we even have them as an external add-on as computers themselves have decreased in size to boxes the size of 5” x 5” x 1.5”
Add-ons in terms of physical objects or, hardware are called, peripherals.
Multi Function Track Pads sense finger pressure and area. Using one finger serves a particular function or range of functions. Adding another finger, two fingers or even three fingers adds more specific functions as does an increase in pressure of the fingers and things will continue to develop. These advanced track-pads have eliminated the need for adding a peripheral Mouse.
Floppy Disks: A done deal nowadays and all but redundant. An external Floppy Disk player can be attached to a computer but so many other means of storage have also fallen by the wayside and are now, redundant – ZIP discs for instance.
CD storage is all but eliminated now and DVD storage, much the same. As a result, computers now have no need for CD/DVD Drives and as such, have become smaller and lighter with greater reliability.
Popular storage devices in use today are by way of memory cards, Flash-drives and external Hard Disk Drives as well as the computers own, on-board Hard Disc (Drive).
Much attention was given to computer speeds in the past but with operating chips utilising two cores and four cores on the same chipset with the relative increase in RAM storage (dealt with elsewhere), the figure or specifications don’t mean too much at consumer level and what used to be complicated, has now been so simplified as to be irrelevant. Some comfort can be taken when comparing like-for-like when the processor speed differential is clearly obvious but again, depending upon your own personal tasking for your computer, no comparison is really viable.
It should be noted at this point, that Internet download speeds have increased so much that software for programs is now available online and therefore, a CD ROM with the software program is no longer the way, we simply access the software online, download it and install the program.
The final method of storage of data, which includes personal files, photos, videos etc., is the ‘Cloud.’Everybody has one. Apple has ICloud, Amazon has its cloud, Google has its cloud and they are all personal storage mediums for the consumer but, once a certain storage level is met, a subscription situation will come into effect.
This makes your storage of data, very secure but could end up, quite costly.
There are a few more ways to store information but we will nor deal with those at present – they are mostly for professionals and those in film and video production for example.
Since we are talking about peripherals and external drives as well as printer connectivity, it would be an appropriate time to look at the progress of connectivity methods over the years.
We are not going to dwell too long on history but briefly, we used to use heavy cables and plugs to connect our devices together.
As components have decreased in size, these cumbersome mediums have had to become obsolete but with universal adaption and acceptance by all the manufacturers involved – largely, this has happened though some deviation will always be present.
You may have heard of SCSI, LPTI, Firewire and USB followed by USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini USB and Micro USB but what do they all mean? Simply put, a method of transferring data from one device to another so, what is the difference?
Let me give you an analogy: if I wish to inflate a tyre, there are two things to note; the pressure of the air at my disposal to inflate the tyre and, the amount or volume of air at that pressure – they are two different components, as is, data transfer. So we have the amount of data and the speed of the data we wish to transfer as factors. Without studying the progress to the current situation, let us rest, for our purposes, in USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, which is the latest offering.
Just to dispel Firewire: it was used by professionals (news, media and photography personnel) to transfer large volumes of data efficiently but not designed persé for the consumer though, an Apple favourite, which was supplied as standard on numerous computer models but has now, been replaced by USB 3.0.
USB – Universal Series Bus – simply a cable for transferring data with a default 5 Volt line supply provided by the computer itself. A means to transfer the data at very fast speeds but a new method that is largely unsupported in older machines but, the way of the future. USB 2.0 still reigns.
USB - A plug and socket connection about ¾” wide largely moving to Mini USB and Micro USB to facilitate cell phones, tablets and new computers as well as laptops.
Apple however, have not only embraced the USB technology in preference to Firewire but have also added their own plug and socket systems in the form of the Lightning Plug and Adapter plus, Thunderbolt which we will deal with later.
External storage and input devices for software are, mostly nowadays, by way of Flash Drives (Dongles). Compressing data to minuscule sizes has enabled the development of Flash Drives to enormous sizes storage wise and the development continues unabated.
Storing and distributing data is the easiest and quickest thing in the world so cross-border sharing of information is virtually, instantaneous.
A word or two about Memory Cards. Typically fitted into cameras and video cameras (and Personal Organisers [palm devices] in the past), there have been numerous card formats over the years but the undoubted winner is the SD Card and it’s little brother, the Micro SD Card – micro incidentally has nothing to do with storage but simply the physical size of the card.
CF was a popular format but size again gave way to the victor, the SD Card. Available in many different capacities now, they max-out at a massive 500GB - that is half a Terabyte, 1000GB (Gigabytes)! However the size is not the only factor to consider – the speed that information can be written on the card is of mega importance and can be defined by a ‘quality of card’ index figure on a scale of 2 to 10 so, depending upon your purpose, you choose the size and quality of your card which is obviously, reflected in the price you pay.
Now, reduce the physical size of the card and we have the Micro SD Card. OK, something has to be sacrificed at present and that is the card’s capacity, which currently tops out at 200GB, which in itself is, an amazing feat.
Of course, we need to be able to read these cards and with the almost universal standard of the SD Card, computer manufacturers have built an SD reader into their products. For Micro SD, we simply put the small card into an SD adapter to read the small card contents as we used to with VHS ‘C’ video camcorder tapes.
It would be prudent at this stage just to explain the similarities size wise with SIM cards.
SIM - Subscriber Identifier Module cards are those unique cards we insert into our mobile cellular devices. OK, it used to be our phones but now we have tablets and Ipads with SIM card facilities. These unique cards carry our phone numbers, contacts, text messages (SMS) and lots of other information.
As phones got smaller or, became more powerful, space in a cellular device became, prime. With the capacity to carry video, music and data, the internal memory was insufficient to cope so, manufacturers, added Micro SD Cards to hold/store this data.
With space already a major factor, the phone manufacturers decided to decrease the size of the SIM card. Progressing from Mini SIM to Micro SIM is the new standard and again, adapters exist to facilitate a smaller card in an older phone with a full size SIM – of course, you cannot fit a full size SIM into most smart phones so you have to apply for a replacement card from your cellular service provider, which is FOC.
Before we return to anything computer training related, I want to finish with storage in the following manner: laptops are designed to be thinner, lighter and more portable than ever but, reducing the size of the computer physically gives rise to other problems namely, battery power. As this is and has been a problem for numerous years, compromises have been made and these, none less than in the retail pricing of laptops.
How do we reduce or keep costs down when technology demands the ultimate constantly? Compromise.
Better power sources are evolving but keeping the costs down usually results in one of two things, less powerful processors or, less storage space from the on-board hard-drive.
Since less powerful processing is unacceptable and storage, especially external storage is becoming so affordable, it stands to reason, for the near future to focus attention on external storage or, its equivalent.
External hard drives used to be large and required a physically large, power supply unit PSU.
Modern drives require only a portion of the power of the actual computer itself and have become so small that a 2TB drive fits into your pocket as easily as a modern smart phone. It does not require a PSU of its own.
With this and, bearing in mind that a large capacity SD Card would also do the job as well as a Flash Drive, security adds another demand. If you lose your laptop, your data goes with it.
We all know we should ‘back-up’ our data in case of computer crashes but if we use our external hard-drive as our main storage drive by using a simple USB connection, be it USB 2.0 or preferably, USB 3.0, we increase our level of security and we also have our data as a separate entity.
It follows that our computer can work at capacity but store the results externally.
An important factor of external storage choice is the speed, once again, that the data can be written. Hands down, an external hard drive will write much faster than a flash drive or SD Card irrespective of the ‘quality’ of the SD Card.
Finally, all these drives can be bypassed by using a ‘cloud’ device or, storage in the skies, cyberspace. The problem with this is, as mentioned before, cost. Once a certain level is reached, a subscription service will follow but it is undoubtedly the most secure way to store data, photographs, music, videos and files with the added advantage, that you can access this information from anywhere on the planet that has an Internet connection and, from any device in your possession. It IS, a matter of personal choice and practicality.
Tidbit: SD Cards can be purchased with radio transmission capabilities. This in simple terms means that you can transmit the data to a computer without a physical cable attachment – an advantage for photographers who want to see instant results on a larger screen than that of the camera LCD.