The Logitech G602 Gaming Mouse

Computer mice are one of those items I’m never quite satisfied with. Since I found my dream keyboard in the Corsair K95, I’ve been searching for a replacement for my 3-year old Logitech Marathon Mouse.

The Marathon Mouse had two major features going for it: the battery lasted up to 3 years and the mouse fit my hand well. The battery lived up to its claims, but the buttons felt cheap from the start. But lately, it was giving me a problem when I tried to copy and paste sentences and paragraphs in Microsoft Word. I tried replacing the batteries, but that didn’t solve the issue. Eventually, I realized the right mouse button would work for awhile and then stick. It was incredibly frustrating.

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I decided to head over to Best Buy and try out a handful of mice. The ideal situation would be to test a number of different models at home and keep the best one. But that wasn’t possible, so I narrowed my choice down to three mice that I could test at the store. During my search, I found that most gaming mice were corded rather than wireless. There was no way I was going back to a cord which limited my choices even further.

I ended up purchasing a gaming mouse even though I don’t do a lot of gaming. The Logitech G602 feels like a substantial upgrade in craftsmanship and materials compared to the Marathon. The scroll wheel has a wonderful feel to it and the right/left click feels solid if a bit louder than I’m used to. Some reviewers at Amazon knocked its 2500 DPI, but that is plenty for most people, even gamers. It’s larger than the Marathon but not so large that my hand tires after hours of use.

The Logitech G602 costs a bit more than the Marathon, but not much. The Logitech Gaming software allows you to customize any of the buttons. But I don’t really care about doing a lot of customizing. I merely want a solid, everyday mouse that gives me decent battery life, a solid feel, and responsive movement. So far, it checks all those boxes and then some.

Still Relying on RSS

Taking to my blog to write about RSS reminds me a little of those who vent about privacy on Facebook. My intention isn’t to defend RSS because it doesn’t need me to defend it. Instead I’d like to point out how I use it and why it’s still valuable to me in a world of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

OK, I threw that last one in there for laughs.

It’s true that these services do bubble up some great content. Curious people post links to interesting content. But combing through thousands of tweets and status updates is a major time suck. I seldom go back through my streams searching for content I missed because the best stuff comes back around.

And really, if it’s tech news I’m after, I can get my fix at Techmeme.

At least 90% of the RSS feeds I subscribe to come to me through Reeder on either my iPhone or iPad. I’ve tried products such as the popular Flipboard or Zite that integrate RSS with Twitter and Facebook and attempt to beautify the content for various devices, but I find they get in the way more than they help.

Reeder takes the opposite approach. It presents the content and gets out of the way. It’s been my favorite iOS app for three years now.

But I can’t imagine RSS is going anywhere. I rely on it more today than I did five years ago. I follow a few popular writers such as Bob Lefsetz and Dave Winer, but they are the exceptions. Both Bob and Dave write often and are followed by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Yet it’s hard to imagine them writing any differently if they had a dozen readers. They have strong opinions and share personal stories. Those two traits are shared by both popular and lessor known writers I follow.

Those who share personal experiences tend to make it onto my RSS list before all others. Some of them may refer to a news story that hits CNN, but they spend less time reporting the details and more time sharing their take on the matter. A few see the world through a view finder and allow their pictures to tell a story. I love finding an unknown writer, adding it to my feed, and then sharing it with others.

Who knows what Facebook and Twitter will do with their feeds. I don’t have control over that. But I have full control of my RSS feed. That counts for a lot.

For Sale: You

I’m beginning to equate free with disappointment, at least when it comes to online services such as Facebook and Gmail. Twitter too but, I’ll leave that for another day.

I’ve been logging into Facebook each day for four years. And yet I couldn’t explain their various levels of privacy to anyone. Just when I think I’ve set them where I want, Facebook decides to make wholesale changes in the name of what’s best for their users.

But change after mind-numbing change, we know better.

Maybe Facebook doesn’t intentionally try to confuse their users, but it certainly doesn’t hurt them when we sprinkle bits and pieces of our life around the Facebook forest, making it easier for advertisers to track our every movement.  Seriously, I look at the privacy setting screen and have no clue what I’m looking at. Even the wording used to describe settings is slippery.

Parts of my profile that were set to private by default are suddenly made public, and I’m forced to lock it down again.  It’s a never-ending game of Whack a Mole, and that’s par for the course with Facebook.

No other service I use changes more than Facebook. I used to have a feel for what details I made public and those I kept private. But Zuckerberg and his crew are wearing me down, and maybe that’s their goal. Bonk us over the head enough and we’ll succumb to making everything public.

Facebook is a light diversion, but I rely on Gmail to get serious work done. Gmail used to work quite well. When I switched to it in 2004, Yahoo and Hotmail were a mess. Gmail came along and gave us a clean, simple and fast email service. And, for the most part, it worked well for the next five years.

But for whatever reason, Google has been working overtime to make Gmail as unusable as Hotmail and Yahoo.  The latest update made it nearly unusable until someone explained how I could revert back to the old Gmail.

Google flipped the switch and immediately text scrolled off the screen, fonts grew, and Google decided maybe I’d like to CHAT while doing email. I’m left to wonder if anyone at Google actually tried to read an email using the new layout without.

I’ve switched back to the old look, but for how long? Each time I login I’m greeted with a little black ribbon begging me to switch to the “new look”. I don’t recall asking for a new look, and I can’t imagine these changes were made with the interest of the users in mind.

You’ve no doubt heard the old poker adage, attributed to Warren Buffet, “If you sit in on a poker game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker.”

Well, along those same lines I’d like to add: “If you’re using a free service and can’t figure out what product the company is selling, it’s you.”

Yes, you.

You are a data gold mine and Facebook and Google know it, but they don’t want to blatantly come out and admit it. In less than four years, Facebook could create more accurate profile of me than my doctor or employer or my church.

I’m beginning to rethink what I’m giving up to use these free services. I wish I could pay for Facebook and Gmail, but only if I could be certain they would respect my privacy and stop making changes that either break the service or sell me out.

I’m tired of being the sucker.

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?

The Technical Land Mine

A number of years ago, I was a product manager for Microsoft Office. The team was so large that marketing and development were scattered in buildings around the Redmond campus. I helped coordinate events where partners could work alongside developers and testers to ensure their products worked well with ours.

One day I received an email from my manager asking me to setup a meeting with a developer who worked on the same product. I was instructed not to stop by his office or call him. I was to setup the meeting and then notify my manager of the date and time so he could accompany me. The goal of the meeting was to invite this developer to attend a Q&A session at an upcoming event in Seattle.

I was confused. Why did I need my boss to sit in on a meeting? Why couldn’t I offer the invitation myself?

The day of our meeting arrived and, as we walked across campus, my manager described how the last time someone from our group spoke directly to development, things didn’t go well. I didn’t think much of his remarks until I was sitting across from this developer as he mocked our work and told us marketers are clueless and don’t perform real work.

I was stunned. This was someone who not only worked for the same company I did, but we worked on the SAME PRODUCT. But after that experience it was clear that battle lines had been drawn with developers and testers on one team and marketing and sales on the other.

I’ve thought back to that experience over the years having been on both sides of the table. I’ve spent half my career on technical teams and the other half in marketing. At smaller companies, it’s not uncommon to have both groups work alongside each other which allows everyone to see how the other groups are contributing to the product.

But at large companies, the marketing team may speak with a developer once or twice a year, if that. Interaction between the groups isn’t encouraged, and an adversarial relationship is prevalent among groups.

I’ve noticed that it’s not uncommon for marketing and sales to approach the technical groups for assistance with selling new or complex products. Sometimes a customer asks a technical question that the sales representative can’t answer. In that case, it makes sense for sales to reach out to those with a deeper technical knowledge of the product.

The British have created a comedy called the IT Crowd centered on this very notion. Each episode is filled with hilarious bits of interaction between the IT geeks and the rest of the company who have no clue about technology.

Yet it’s mostly a one-way street. The technical groups seldom need guidance from the marketing or sales. Or they don’t believe they need anything. Arrogance isn’t scarce.

Marketers have a much broader range of responsibilities. They are expected to coordinate within the group while still listening and reaching out to customers. That requires wearing many hats, some of which may slide into the technical realm.

When is the last time you’ve seen a developer asked for his input on the latest marketing plan? Can you imagine how silly most developers would look if they were expected to create an MRD, write a white paper or conduct a brand audit?

Maybe one day both groups will gain a respect for each other. But I’m not holding my breath.

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.

 dilbert-2010.04.07

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.