Timberland 3-Eyelet Lug

I bought my first pair about twenty years ago, and my sixth pair from Zappos last week. It’s the perfect shoe I can wear year-round in Seattle without having to worry about my feet getting damp.

Every few months I’ll grab a soft cotton rag and rub mink oil into each shoe which brings back the burgundy tint and helps to waterproof the leather. Once the leather laces get worn in, they stayed tied unlike leather laces in my other shoes.

Tip: running the mink oiled cloth over the laces helps speed up the process.

I’ve paid $120 for every pair I’ve owned, and I’ve never seen them discounted.  I don’t know why that is, but I’ve purchased less expensive similar models of Timberland and seldom been happy with them.

When Kim and I were in New York about 13 years ago, we wandered into a tiny shoe store not far off Times Square. Kim bought a pair that she still has today. They look brand new because she only wears them a few times each year. That was the year I bought my third pair.

I can’t imagine my closest without a pair of Lugs on the floor.

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Moneyball

“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – Billy Beane

Moneyball was the best movie I saw this year. I read the Michael Lewis book a few years ago and liked it, but didn’t think much of it. When I heard Brad Pitt was playing the role of A’s general manager, Billy Beane, I shrugged it off and didn’t plan to see the film.

But Ebert gave it a good review and I decided to see it. So glad I did because I really enjoyed the performances from Pitt and Jonah Hill who plays an understated statistic whiz kid who understand that the goal of teams should be to buy  wins instead of players.

Basically, invest your money in players who get on base. It doesn’t matter how. A walk or hit by pitch is as good as a hit.

Not only are the performances good, but the music and cinematography are excellent. We’ve seen the ball sail over the fence for the winning home run dozens of times. You’ll find it in Moneyball as well but it’s done with such a deft touch that it feels authentic.

I highly recommend Moneyball even if you’re not into baseball. In fact, it’s as much about business and mathematics as it is about the game of baseball.

Software For A New PC

Apps for smartphones and the iPad have stolen most of the thunder away from PC programs. And with good reason because that’s where most of the excitement is these days. Had someone told me a year ago that I’d migrate a third of my PC usage over to the iPad I would have called them insane.

But even with all the iPad excitement many of us still rely on a Windows PC for at least a portion of our computing needs. I still prefer to browse the web, write and listen to music on my PC. Sure, I can do all that on my iPad, but I still enjoy sitting in front of two large monitors when I’m juggling a few tasks.

This time of year, I’m often asked to take a look at a computer that’s been giving a friend fits. The question I hear most is, “Can you fix my computer or determine if I’d be better off buying a new one?”

That’s not always an easy question to answer because it requires asking a number of follow-up questions. Often I see a newer computer that has been taken over by children who bring it to its knees by installing toolbars, P2P apps, plugins, and a bunch of other performance killing junk. The state of software is such that crapware often piggybacks onto legitimate software, and you end up with a lot more than that irresistible free game.

Even Apple pulls this stunt by trying to get you install their Safari browser at the same time you install a new version of iTunes. And it gets worse when that unwelcome software changes your default browser, search engine and media player.

Installing PC software today is risky business. Although I’ve moved some of my work to the web through the use of Gmail and Google Docs, which decreases the amount of software on my PC, I still rely on a number of programs to keep my PC running smoothly.

So if you end up with a new PC under your tree on Christmas morning, he’s my list of software that I install on each PC I own. I highly recommend upgrading to Windows 7 if you haven’t already.

1. Windows Update – I run this before I install anything. This will install any new drivers and update some software for you. This could take a while if your new PC was sitting in a warehouse for months. Technically not a program you can download, but important nonetheless.

2. Firefox or Chrome – Launch Internet Explorer and download yourself a much better browser. Then close Internet Explorer and you’ll never need to run it again. I switch between Firefox and Chrome, and both work well. (free)

3. Microsoft Security Essentials – There’s no need to pay for anti-virus software because this free program works great and won’t slow down your system like Norton and others will. If you’re running McAfee or Norton my suggestion is to uninstall them before installing Security Essentials. (free)

4. Threatfire – Picks up where your antivirus leaves off by protecting your PC against malicious behavior from bugs your antivirus program doesn’t yet know about. I’ve used Threatfire in conjunction with Security Essentials for nearly five years without a single infestation. (free)

5. CCleaner – Wipes your PC of temporary internet files and old registry entries. You won’t believe all the junk it cleans off your system the first time you run it. I run this each week. (free)

6. FileHippo – This nifty utility will help you update all the software on your PC that Windows Update skips right over. I prefer to ignore the beta updates and only installed the released updates it finds.  (free)

7. Dropbox –  Dropbox allows me to sync important files to the cloud as well as other PCs, my iPhone and iPad. So simple and elegant I can’t imagine computing without it. (free for 2GB)

8. GFI Backup – I’ve tried so many backup utilities over the years. Most have been an exercise in frustration. But GFI is different. A simple step-by-step wizard walks me through the process of backing up my music, photos and videos to a backup USB drive. I use Dropbox to sync files I need access to on my my devices, but I use GFI to backup my large collections to an removable drive. (free Home edition)

I have more software than this on my system, but these are the programs I install on every PC in our home. And they are the set of software I suggest to others when I’m asked to assist in setting up a new computer.

What programs or utilities do you install on a new PC?

Wireless Cable Modem Gateway Upgrade

After dealing with a number of problems with Qwest DSL service, we switched to Comcast cable internet about four years ago. Comcast has been a more reliable overall although they too occasionally suffer from services outages. But unlike Qwest, they seldom last longer than a few minutes.

When we switched to Comcast, I purchased my own modem and wireless gateway device. I was surprised how few combo unit were on the market, but found one from Motorola at Fry’s for about a hundred bucks. The admin interface was an absolute mess, but it allowed me to restrict wireless access to the network by MAC address which works well for me without slowing bandwidth.

Over the past four years, we’ve added at least a half dozen wireless devices to our home, most of which are made from Apple and support 802.11n. The older modem/gateway only supported b/g devices which wasn’t a big deal until we began streaming video to our iPads. Lately we noticed slow connection speeds from the rooms furthest away from our modem.

Our current Motorola device an older model that didn’t support the newer 802.11n speeds, so I decided to upgrade to the Motorola SBG6580 Wireless Cable Modem Gateway.

It took a few minutes to convince Comcast to update the modem’s MAC address, but it’s been a great investment so far. While the upload speeds have stayed the same, the download speed has increased on average from 12 Mb/s to over 20. But more importantly, the increased wireless coverage and speed allows everyone to stream video from anywhere in our home.

The only downside I can think of is that the admin panel is still a horrible mess that makes little sense to anyone who isn’t a technonerd.

If you’re still running a b/g wireless router with newer devices you may want to consider an upgrade. The Motorola I bought has a street price of about $125-$135 and is available at Fry’s, Amazon, and NewEgg.

My Favorite iPad Apps

A few months into iPad ownership and I’m as excited as Beavis with a bowl full of nachos.

I keep my iPad screens quite tidy. In fact, I now keep all my apps on one screen and remove those I don’t use often. Those I use regularly but not each day go in a folder. Those apps I use almost each day, gain a spot in the upper four fifths of the screen. And finally, those I have open all the time, are pinned to the lower bottom.

Here’s the run down on my favorites:

Alarm Clock Pro – Made for the iPhone but works on the iPad. Simple but gorgeous. 99 cents

Weather HD – The best look weather app I’ve found. 99 cents

Speed Test – Tests Wi-Fi and 3G speeds such as Ping, download and upload speeds. free

Writings – You may never go back to Word again. Love this simple text editor. 99 cents

ABC Player – Catch up on Modern Family, the Bachelor or, my favorite, the Shark Tank. free

Slacker – Check out my full review, but this is how music apps should be done. app is free, subscriptions run $3.99 to $9.99/month

Daily – Cancelled local paper and bought the daily, the newspaper designed for the iPad. app is free, annual subscription is $39.99

60 Minutes – Always something to watch in the archives. Brings out my inner news junkie. $4.99

Air Video – Amazing app allows me to stream video from my PC to my iPad. Get your nerd on. $2.99

NPR – You could waste months diving into this app, but you’d be a lot smarter. free

Video Time Machine – Just download this now. Seriously. Stop reading and do it. 99 cents

Car Buzz – Everything you wanted to know about cars from total car nuts. free

MyPad+ – If you’re on Facebook, you’ll want this. 99 cents

Twitter – I prefer TweetDeck on Windows, but Twitter on iPad and iPhone. free

Diigio Browser – Do you wish your iPad browser looked and acted like Google Chrome? free

Week Calendar – A major upgrade to the default calendar. Love this app. $1.99

Reeder – Saved the best for last. My favorite app. Makes reading RSS feeds fun, and syncs with Google Reader. I spend more time in this app than any other. $4.99

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Writings for iPad

Sometimes I come across something so simple or so elegant or so dang fun to use that I have to share it.

Imagine the bloated Microsoft Word product for a moment with the ribbon, endless options and sluggish performance many of us have grown accustomed to. Using Word to create a simple text document is akin to removing a sliver with a battle ax.

Writings for the iPad is the polar opposite of Word. It’s simple, elegant and actually fun to use which isn’t an adjective often used to describe a text editor.

It might be the best 99 cents you’ll spend if you own an iPad and your editing needs are simple. I use Writings to jot down notes and create blog posts like you’re reading now. It also syncs to Dropbox.

Check out the video here for a quick demo and link to download.

Simple Backup

It happened again today. A friend called me asking for help in reviving his PC that will no longer boot. He believes he caught a virus. I plugged it in, and sure enough, it won’t boot.

“Do you have your important files backed up?” I ask.

Queue the awkward pause. I got my answer.

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Unfortunately, I’ve seen his scenario play out half a dozen times over the past year. A family shares an older model PC, usually running Windows XP or Vista. Files are saved haphazardly to a local drive. Malware and viruses enter the computer and eventually slow or shut it down. Or worse, a hard drive bites the dust.

And nobody backed up files to an external drive, CD/DVD, or online.

So this post is for my friends and readers who are in a similar situation. Eventually your hard drive will crash or you’ll catch a virus, or your children will delete the folder where all your financial data was saved.

I could tell you about nifty online back solutions or explain how I use a couple of small programs to copy files from one drive to another. But I’ll save that for a later post.

If you do not have a backup solution, stop what you’re doing and order this 500 gig drive from New Egg. Or this 1 TB drive if you have a lot of videos, music or other files that take up more space. This is not the most elegant or even the most effective backup solution. But it’s far better than nothing at all.

About a year ago, I advised my father to pickup an external drive and it’s saved his behind a number of times.

If your hard drive dies, and you end up paying someone to extract your data off it, you could be looking at hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And that’s the best case scenario.

About 10 years ago, I lost a years worth of pictures around the time our second child was born. I’m still kicking myself because I knew better.

Don’t let that happen to you. Grab a drive and backup your files today.