Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Shopping

FIRST, Chilean cherries and American seedless mandarins are ripe and on sale. Both are cheap and delicious. Both, especially the cherries, are the fruit equivalent of salted nuts. Unlike nuts, fruit soon requires one to get up and take a quick walk to the room with the shower in it, but not to take a shower. So there is some exercise involved.

SECOND, I learned about browsers. These are easy to shop for because they are by definition online. And they are free. The main three options are the inevitable Internet Explorer that comes with Windows, Mozilla Firefox, and now Google Chrome.

The great virtue of Internet Explorer is that you already have it and don't have to do anything. Just click on it and it comes up.

The great virtue of Firefox is that it uses tabs, so you can have several pages loaded at once and switch among them just by clicking on the tabs. You can have your startup page be several pages each in a separate tab. If your computer has enough memory, you can have lots of them. I used Firefox for years, until very recently.

The newest version of Internet Explorer now has tabs too, but they are cumbersome and insincere by comparison. For some, the fact that Firefox is from a nonprofit competitor to mega-Microsoft is also a reason to use it.

Google Chrome confused me at first. It has a simpler less cluttered appearance than the other two so I didn't see the point. Until I did comparison tests. Chrome is a mile faster at loading pages than Internet Explorer and several hundred yards faster than Firefox. It starts up faster than they do as well. Internet Explorer, which had seemed normal before, now seems painfully slow, almost unusable.

The confusing simplicity turns out to be a trick. Google has concentrated the menus under three icons, the wrench, the page, and the star. Roughly the same collection of features are there, but take up less space on the screen.

Today I learned a useful and cool feature. Say one is writing a blog entry fulminating against something one read in the Times. One has to keep switching tabs to have the object of one's ire in view, then switch to the blog composition screen to vent in, and then back for the next quote and so on.

With Chrome in a window rather than full-screen, one can click on a tab and drag it onto the open screen, et voila, a new Chrome window with the tab in it. Right-clicking on a tab gives the opportunity to duplicate it before dragging it to the screen. This is useful if one screen is previous to the other like an inbox is to an email. One can see both on screen at the same time by clicking the back arrow on one of them.

Attempting to drag and drop a tab in Firefox just puts an icon on the screen. Attempting it in Internet Explorer gets a blank look -- nothing happens.

I have not fiddled with Safari much since it seems like a Mac-specific thing though it is now available for Windows.   Thoughts from the MacMeister, the Sage of Chico?

THIRD, don't ditch your Internet Explorer yet.  A few things will only run in it, notably Netflix's instant movies. These are an amazing service. There are no end of movies, literally thousands, that will play on your computer screen directly, just by clicking on them. 

Netflix provides this as an accessory to their snail mail DVD business which is just ridiculous. Sending hi-tech disks from a hi-tech service provider to a hi-tech consumer who has broadband, by way of trucks and hand-delivery is so dumb as to make me shake my head in dismay.

Just a little background here - High Definition (HD) television screens come in two flavors, the older 720p or 720 vertical lines, and the newer 1080p or 1080 vertical lines. Standard broadcast has 480 vertical lines. By comparison, computer monitors have mainly 1024x768 resolution or 1280x1024 for larger ones, which is 768 lines or 1024 lines. That is, they are roughly the same as HD televisions, only smaller.

One huge drawback of computer monitors compared to televisions is that one generally cannot watch them from a couch. Which presumably is why the newer televisions come with pc input plugs, to make them function as big, couch-watchable computer monitors.

The petty nastiness here is Radio Shack which has some ludicrous price on the video cord from the box to the tube.  As your consumer reviewer here, on a scale of one to five, the Scenic Route awards Radio Shack the full five Eff You's.  Buy the connector mail order online from someone else.

Once you've got a $9 a month Netflix subscription, a computer connection to your television, a freezer full of food, and someone you love near at hand, there is no reason why you should ever leave your house.

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