postheadericon Tech Talk: Freaky techie freakonomics


Back in the summer of 2010, I wrote here about the differences between Macs and PCs, and how my family business had gone over to the iSide of things - ditching all of our PCs for two reasons: Mac Freakonomics and malware.

Now, as we enter into a lovely and early Nepali summertime this 2012, I am happy to report that on the freakonomic front, our investment in Apple has paid off. Here's how the Freakonomics of purchasing a Mac computer works: you pay twice as much (initially) but your computer lasts at least three or four times as long.

For example, my 4-year old MacBook Pro laptop cost twice as much as a comparable windows-based laptop in 2007, but is still going strong today and running the latest Apple operating system just fine: OSX Mountain Lion. That's four iterations of the OS (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion), and still this box is not yet obsolete. But come summer of 2013 (hardware withstanding), this MBP will have to be retired if I want to continue running the latest and greatest software (and of course I do). You see, Apple has announced it will replace OSX each and every summer from here on out, so in the summer of 2013, Mountain Lion will be replaced by another yet-undisclosed feline.

But on another front - the continuing battle with malware on computers - Macs are not faring as well as before. In the past few months, a Trojan called Flashback has hit Apple users, and it's a rather insidious bug. If a user accepts a fake security certificate presented and purportedly signed by Apple, then all userids and passwords stored on that machine are at risk of being sent home to Black Hat Incorporated. In other words, you are scroomed. But to prevent that from ever happening, all you have to remember is two things: 1) don't accept fake security certificates, and 2) install the free and fast virus scanner called VirusBarrier Express from Intego.com. It's a beautiful app and a no-brainer to run, and there is even a version that protects iPhone users from various security issues.

Another freaky freakonomic that applies to both Macs and PCs is this: for every file that get's put on your hard drive, there is probably another one of equal value there as well, just wasting space. Eventually, enough of these duplicates will fill your hard drive and require you to buy another. So to save money on hard drives (which have gone UP in price this year and not DOWN) than just get a copy of Gemini, The Duplicate Finder.  This is an elegant app that costs just NRs.400 in the Apple App Store. For PC users, the equivalent is Auslogics Duplicate File Finder, which is free and easy to use, albeit without the cool interface.

I recently did my annual spring-cleaning using these tools, and from all of my terabytes of saved movies, music, photos and whatnot, I saved myself about 128 GB of space - the equivalent of a very small hard drive - or in freakonomic terms, about NRs.1000. Depending on the type of HDD you use (either the mechanical variety or the expensive SSD kind) your savings could be even more.

Another freaky app that a friend turned me onto recently combines the GPS in your phone with Google Earth Maps to give you a live interactive compass – for FREE! I have a lot of friends into trekking here, and I bet you know a few as well that might have a hardware dongle hanging around their neck that tells them what direction they are walking, and also records waypoints and whatnot along the way. These usually run about NRs.4000 and require constant charging just like your phone and everything else. But now with Commander Compass Lite, you can have a much better display of where you are and where you are heading, and did I mention, it's FREE!

The unique feature of this app is that it overlays a traditional GPS compass display over a Google map of your location, and allows you to see where you are, and where everything else is as well (for example, a new coffee bar that you might want to check out). Commander Compass turns your iPhone (and later this year your Android) into a MILSPEC, Tactical, and Gyro device that eliminates the need to carry another device just for these purposes.  But what I like most about it, and would probably use for the next time I party in Pokhora, is the feature that let's you mark a spot, like where you last parked your motorbike, and then find it again in the morning. Oorah!

Well, if you want to share some techie Freakonomics of your own, click on over to myrepublica.com and just append them to this article.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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