This and That, Part 1: Still lovin’ ‘that Android of mine’; iOS 8; OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Nothing specific to talk about today…just some general thoughts on a few things. (I am working on a new somewhat controversial post…but more on that when it happens.)

First off: The Hisense Sero 7 LT Android tablet. I’m still lovin’ this little guy, but as I’ve added apps, predictably the overall speed has gone down. I’m not one to have more than a few windows open at once anyway, so this isn’t all that big of a deal as far as an adjusment…and I’m also no stranger to waiting for something to open or finish loading. (I suppose this is due to having more than a few older computers–patience, patience!) I have been seriously considering an upgrade to the Hisense Sero 7 Pro with 8GB of RAM (as opposed to the LT’s 4GB), but I’m now way past the date to return the Sero 7 LT, and the only way to obtain a Pro is through online ordering. I’d like to play around with the Pro for a bit first to be sure it’s what I want…as for returning the LT to Fry’s, the reason is simply because I don’t see a need for two of these. At some time there will probably be a “tipping point” where I will have to make a decision to live with the app lagging, or upgrade and have a redundancy of devices–but I’m not there yet.

I know what some of you are thinking: if slowness is a problem, why not just get a Samsung or bigger brand-named device? First reason is cost; then the redundancy factor…then, the bloatware. This machine (I am using the Sero 7 LT to write this post) is remarkably free of junk–usually third-party apps that you can’t remove–known as bloatware. All devices have them–there are a couple on here I could do without–but not nearly as many as some. It’s just a waste of resources.

Next: iOS 8. While I wasn’t plagued by the bugs and inconsistencies that hit this iOS’ early adopters, there’s still been some iPhone reboots (and hey, two or three really isn’t that many–but when compared to the number of reboots to fix iOS 7 issues–ZERO–it is kind of a big deal). While overall I’m pretty happy with this new version, despite its occasional slowness, I do have some concerns as to how I am going to eventually be forced to upgrade to a 64GB iPhone 6 (or 6 Plus).

I had to delete a lot of stuff–stored photos, unused or seldom-used apps–to get enough storage room to even be able to install iOS 8. Clearly, a 16GB model is just not going to cut it any more. It will, I think, become the smartphone model of the classic flip phone that phone makers still produce for those elderly or non-tech-savvy users that just need a phone, period. Like the 8 GB model gave way to the 16…so must 16 give way to the 64. Oh well.

(I just got message on my iPhone that my storage is almost full. Again. Grrrrrr.)

Finally: OS X 10.10 Yosemite. No, that’s not pronounced YO-SEH-MITE. It’s YO-SEM-IT-TEE. And, just as the pronunciation is different, so is this upgrade. The font is different on the desktop, the title bar, everywhere…for the first time that I can remember. It’s bolder and cleaner…missing to is the “shelf” in the Dock the apps used to rest on, now there’s just a long enclosing rectangular strip. Also gone are the 3D effects…like iOS 8, the app icons are flatter in appearance.

BTW, get used to those words…”like iOS 8″. Apple is bringing closer and closer together the Mac and mobile operating systems. For example: you can now make phone calls from your Yosemite-equipped Mac. As my late grandfather (whose usually quiet manner would often be broken by loud outbursts, not unlike an individual whose name was also Yosemite) might snort in derision, “AHHHHHHWWWWWWW!” (Followed by “Well, did you ever…!”)

There’s too much for me to talk about in this post (“JERUSALEM!”)…you can read more about OS X 10.10 Yosemite here and here. The first link is to the UK’s TechRadar site, who had this to say about it:

“Yosemite does make compromises in its quest to integrate further with iOS, but there’s a lot to like here, and some really neat new features.”

I just upgraded, so after I’ve spent some time with it I might have another post later on. For now, though, it would seem that Yosemite is really “THE DEAL!” (as my grandfather would say). So far, I really like it.

Alright, Pap…you can continue on with your eternal rest now…and may God bless you.

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How-to: Quickly transferring your choice of data from an old Mac to a new one

Not long ago I purchased an older Macintosh computer for use as a desktop machine. I depend on a MacBook Pro for my everyday use, but there are times when I need a second computer, running concurrently with the MBP, for research. I needed to find a relatively fast and easy way to transfer certain files and folders from my workhorse machine to my recently-obtained older one.

I already have two Mac desktops–an iMac Indigo model from early 2001, which has a slower processor (500MHz); and a 2002 iMac G4 (Flat Panel) (the cool looking flatscreen-monitor-on-a-stalk machine known as Sunflower), which has a not-much-faster 800MHz processor.

Let me take a few moments to try and explain why one might have so many computers.

It’s a sad fact of personal computers that a sort of unplanned obsolescence takes place. Moore’s Law–which is really not a law but more of an observation–states that processor speed will double roughly every two years. Since everyone wants the newest and best available and not yesterday’s models, and computer manufacturers don’t design a way to add fasters processors or allow most circuit board components to be upgradeable, these older computers have much in common with the rusted and decaying hulks of metal, glass and plastic that are the abandoned automobiles one often sees in vacant lots grown up with weeds.

The difference is that these computers still function. While older cars possess moving parts that eventually give way and wear out, ending their operational use, computers nearly always still function much the same as new. While the reason for this is obviously that computers have very few moving parts, there is another more important element.

To continue the automobile analogy: it would be as if every other year cars were made to go twice as fast. While this is an interesting idea in itself, further imagine that as this was taking place, both the maximum and minimum speed limits on highways were increased, to coincide with the release of the newer, faster automobiles. This would likely mean changes in the way these roads were built as well, to accommodate the advanced vehicles.

Therefore, a car that was several years old and had a top speed of 70 mph, for instance, would soon be legally unable to even get on the highway once the minimum speed limit was increased to 75.

So it is with personal computers. While all parts might still function as originally intended, software that was once less complex and smaller in data size soon increases in both complexity and relative size to meet the heftier demands of the newer and more powerful machines.

Imagine that you get a raise at work and go out and buy new furniture. Well, the new furniture is bigger and has more pieces that the old, so now you have to move to a new home because you need the extra space. The furniture is that new software that you want to or have to run…your aging computer is your old home.

Simply put–older machines can’t effectively run newer more advanced software as well. They become sluggish and are generally unresponsive–if they are even capable of running it at all.

Sadly, my most recently acquired Mac will eventually fall by the side of the road as well…but for now, it works well and does what I want.

It’s a PowerMac G4 FW800, and the first machine to have a Firewire (FW) 800 port, which allows data transfer of about 800 megabits per second (Mbit/s)–actually 786.432 Mbit/s. This is almost twice as fast as USB 2.0 (at 480 Mbit/s), which up until recently was the data transfer most often used by Windows-based computers.

I tend to be attracted to computers that hold some kind of milestone or signpost in history. The Mirror Drive Door Macs (of which this is one) were only around a short time, but were among the fastest and most powerful of all computers for that span.

Another plus is it is one of the first of the older models that will run OS X 10.5 Leopard, the last OS available for PPC processors (Apple switched to Intel in 2006). I’ve always been fond of this version of the Mac’s operating system.

I wanted to transfer my personal settings, files and folders from the MacBook Pro to this machine. Apple has created an application to do just that, called Migration Assistant.

Migration Assistant’s opening window (click to enlarge). Credit: Apple Inc.

One of the very good reasons to utilize Migration Assistant is that it allows the use of Firewire to transfer data from machine to machine. This Mac has USB 1.1, which is okay for most things…but it has a top speed for data transfer of 12 Mbit/s, and if I used that to transfer the data it would be a long and arduous process…and depending on how much data I have, it could take somewhere on the magnitude of days to complete.

One of the problems with Migration Assistant is that it doesn’t allow you to select individual files or folders. The app’s twin, Setup Assistant–which appears when you first install a new OS or start up a brand new Mac–is great for the initial transfer of information, and works quite well. But it won’t allow you to choose individual files and folders either. Maybe you have an external hard drive filled with hundreds of gigabytes of pictures and family videos. If you wanted to transfer only certain data from that drive, neither Assistant could help you.

Another problem is that Migration Assistant isn’t designed to try and transfer data from a newer OS to an older machine–you’ll get the “There is no version of OS X on this machine” message on the older computer (“this machine” meaning the one with the newer OS).

So, if you’re trying to accomplish what I am–in either or both examples–there has to be another way.

Fortunately, there is. The trick is to allow the app to make the Firewire connection for you…then just transfer the information yourself. If it sounds complicated, it’s not. It’s actually not much harder than copying and pasting from one to the other.

The first thing you’ll want to do is disable FileVault, if you use it. FileVault is a way to keep your Mac’s data more safe and secure, should it fall into the wrong hands. It encrypts that dataconverts it to a special type of code–that makes it extremely difficult for anyone that doesn’t know the code to translate it. Chances are, if you have this you already know about it. It’s a special option and is something that you could not turn on accidentally. If you have questions or need assistance in turning it off or learning more about it, you can find instructions here for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, or here for 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion.

Next you’ll want to start Migration Assistant on the Destination Mac–the one that will be receiving the information. It’s found in the Applications folder>Utilities subfolder. (Full instructions for using the app can be found here.)

Follow the step by step directions found on the display. Briefly, this is what you’ll do (I would advise reading the instructions found at the above link if you are unfamiliar with the procedure). Click the Continue button on the Destination Mac after each step:

  • Connect the appropriate Firewire cable to both machines (either FW400 or 800–the cables aren’t interchangeable).
  • Set the Source Mac up in Target Disk mode. This essentially involves making it into a giant hard drive.You do this by restarting it and holding down the “T” key as soon as the screen goes black. Continue to hold down the “T” key until you see the big Firewire symbol appear.
  • When the message “Firewire connection established” appears, STOP.
  • You can now minimize the Migration Assistant. We won’t be needing it for the remainder of the transfer, but don’t close it completely or you could disrupt the connection.
  • By now you should have the icon of an orange rectangle bearing the Firewire symbol appearing on the Destination Mac’s display. Its name will be the same as the Source Mac’s hard drive, and is a representation of it. (You might have more than one, depending on how many drives you have in the Source Mac.)
  • Now, all you have to do is double-click on the Source Mac’s drive icon found on the Destination Mac’s display to find what you’d like to transfer, open the Destination Mac’s hard drive icon to locate where you’d like to put it, highlight and drag the files and folders you want from one to the other.
  • It’s important to remember that you’re only copying the files and folders, not actually moving them.
  • This is the easy part–you wait for the transfer to complete.
  • Once you’re done copying all the data you wanted to transfer, highlight the Source Mac’s hard drive icon and drag it to the Destination Mac’s Trash. This ejects the drive.
  • DO NOT DISCONNECT THE FIREWIRE CABLE UNTIL YOU HAVE EJECTED THE DRIVE! It’s possible you could damage the Source Mac’s drive if you don’t eject it first from the Destination Mac’s desktop.
  • Once it no longer appears on the desktop, you can disconnect the Firewire cable from both machines.
  • Restart the Source Mac by pressing the Power button to turn it off. After a few moments, press the button again to start it up.
  • You’re done!

By following these instructions you can enjoy the higher speed of a Firewire data transfer, which is especially good if your machine is otherwise only capable of the snail’s pace slooowwwness of the older USB 1.1 standard.

(Note: it is also possible to connect the computers directly with a short length of ethernet cable, which should provide the same results. While I have not attempted this transfer method, more on it can be found here–almost at the end of the article. Click the link marked Wireless (Wi-Fi) or Ethernet Migration.”)

How to make Ubuntu look more like Windows (upon leaving Windows for Ubuntu)

It’s not a stretch to say that there are a lot of people who are both unhappy about and with Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8.

For one, it brings change. Change is b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-d. Unless, of course, you are unhappy with something and want it changed–then it’s good, and can’t happen fast enough.

Without going into a long discussion, here’s a quick synopsis of what happened: Starting a few years ago, Google and Apple began eating Microsoft’s lunch in just about everything tech-wise. The company got tired of that, so it decided it would try and adopt some ideas, concepts and principles from both of them, as a way of fighting back. It decided that instead of having a tablet computer (which it had already failed at) and a desktop computer, with two different operating systems, it would create an all-in-one universal OS for both. Hence, Windows 8.

“Tell me about the rabbits, George!”

Like the ham-fisted Lenny in Of Mice and Men, Microsoft managed to get its oversized clumsy mitts on too many delicate things, and screwed them all up badly. Cue the aforementioned Windows 8, the Surface RT…and, to a lesser extent, the Pro. Smart covers break, battery life is awful, touch screen is often sluggish, not enough apps, no Start button, can’t run previous Windows apps…and so on.

(There’s lots to read here on Brood Coffee Talk about those things…and, elsewhere.)

It tried to define a category; like Apple did with its iPod, iPhone and iPad…and Samsung and Amazon did in the 7-inch market, with the original Galaxy Note and the Kindle Fire, respectively. Instead, the category might have helped define Microsoft.

Which leads us to the present day…and many angry long-standing customers.

Not too long ago we discussed switching to a different OS, like OS X or Ubuntu Linux. While this on the surface (no pun intended) might seem like a great idea, ultimately it can be like driving 30 miles out of your way just to avoid a 45-minute accident delay on the freeway–you’ll get there at the same time had you just sat in the traffic jam, but you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. Point being, you’ll still have to learn a new OS, and isn’t that why you left Windows in the first place?

What about Ubuntu, the latest version of the Linux OS? It’s a solid alternative…open source (and FREE), years of reliability in its development. But…there is that darned unfamiliarity factor again.

This article from PCWorld.com will show you how to set up Ubuntu so that it looks and acts like Windows 7. Now, I realize that Windows 7 might not have been your problem–that’s likely Windows 8. And, you have a machine with Windows 8.

But it’s very difficult to return to Windows 7 from 8, you’ve likely read or been told. Aye, there’s the rub. As the linked article shows, depending on how you and Windows 8 became acquainted, it could be much more trouble than it’s worth.

Even if you already have Windows 7–sooner or later you’ll have to adopt Windows 8’s interface in some form. Eventually 7 will be gone…Ubuntu is based on open-source Linux, there’s no giant multinational corporation telling you what to do–just users like you and me carefully and responsibly maintaining and updating the Linux code.

There’s a reason Linux is on more computers around the world than anything else.

Failure or success of Windows 8 aside, it’s already time to start talking about 9

In a different world, a company or individual would have some time to bask in one’s successes…time to reflect back on what made the thing so good, and how it might be made better for the next go-round.

Well, it isn’t a different world…and, Windows 8 wasn’t a huge success in even the most optimistic eyes, which are probably Microsoft’s when it said sales of the new OS were “modest.”

While it’s often a good idea to get the next product out quickly while the public is ooh-ing and ahh-ing over your last success, it’s even more important to release the latest revision when the last kind of fell flat on its face. It clears the palate, so to speak, of the unmistakeable metallic taste of perceived failure.

Therefore, it’s time to start talking in earnest about Windows 9. What will Microsoft carry over from 8? Certainly customer complaints must be addressed…heck, even Apple makes an attempt at that.

Jarred Newman at PCWorld.com gives us an idea of how that might look:

Every graying movie franchise needs a great sequel to give it a boost. Think Star Trek and James Bond. Operating systems are no different—especially Microsoft’s. After receiving a critical beatdown for Windows 8, what does the company have up its sleeve for Windows 9?

It’s too early to call Windows 8 either a success or a failure, but it’s never too soon to ask what’s next, particularly in connection with a rumored mid-2013 update dubbed “Windows Blue.” Microsoft will have to pull off a tricky balancing act with its next version of Windows: It must satisfy its existing base of users while transitioning from the old desktop paradigm to the new touch-first interface. As matters stands, there’s definitely room for improvement.

Microsoft declined to answer questions about how it might build on Windows in the future. So we’ve done some brainstorming—with the help of a few trusty experts—to imagine potential ways forward.

Kill the desktop

With Windows 8, Microsoft demoted the desktop user interface. Instead of being the main attraction when you turn on your PC, it’s just one app among many on the new “modern-style” Start screen. The fact that Windows 8 is essentially two operating systems in one has given impetus to some interesting hybrid devices such as Surface Pro, but it has also drawn jeers from critics who find the desktop-versus-Start screen dichotomy jarring and confusing.

Tom Hobbs, creative director for Seattle-based design consultancy Teague, argues that retaining the desktop in Windows 9 would be a mistake. “I think one of the things they should do is just ditch the whole desktop completely,” Hobbs says. In that case, only the touch-friendly side of Windows, with its walled garden of apps, would remain.

But wouldn’t users—especially those in enterprise environments—stage a revolt? Perhaps, but committing to touch also creates a clear path forward for users and developers, Hobbs says. It’s not unlike Apple’s transition from Mac OS 9 to OS X, an operating system that was incompatible with legacy software in the absence of an emulation layer.

“Of course, there’s going to be some resistance to that,” Hobbs said. “There’s going to be some slow uptake, but at the same time, it means that people know where they are. They know where they stand.”

The key for Microsoft, Hobbs thinks, is to capitalize on its strengths. That means abandoning the fight to make Windows a consumption product—leaving that field to the Xbox team and to devices like the rumored Xbox Surface—and instead positioning Windows as the best touchscreen OS for business. In this scenario, a Modern-style version of Office for Windows 9 would be a must, of course, but Hobbs can also imagine Microsoft reinventing desktop PC hardware with a focus on touch.

Hobbs came up short on suggestions for what this reimagined desktop would look like, but here’s one idea: Think of a Surface all-in-one PC that you could manipulate from afar with a Kinect-like system. It’s not so farfetched.

We’re already seeing glimpses of this type of functionality. A firm called Leap Motion is releasing a $70 motion sensor peripheral that’s about the size of a pack of gum and can be added to Windows 8 PCs. Leap Motion technology lets you track movements of both your hands (and all ten of your fingers) at 290 frames per second and detect movements as slight as 0.01 millimeter (see the video above). Asus says that it will bundle Leap’s hand-gesture technology into a number of high-end laptops in 2013.

Other ways to move beyond the mouse and keyboard in Windows 9 are possible, but success will depend on tight integration of hardware and software. Incidentally, such integration is the kind of thing that Steve Ballmer says Microsoft wants to do.

Newman also suggests that perhaps, for diehard Windows users, killing the desktop altogether might be too great of a shock. He adds that other changes might include apps taking more of a center stage, and making the Charms bar more easily accessible and more user-friendly as to its content.

I would suggest that the company consider combining the best of Windows 7 with the better features of Windows 8. I know that Microsoft is trying to get its users to move into the next phase of Windows’ development, but there has to be a better way. While Apple was eventually successful ten years ago in getting its users to gradually abandon OS 9 (Classic) for the newness of OS X, it solved this problem by allowing them to go back and forth. In this way its users could do their everyday work by switching between the familiarity of OS 9, but still exploring and becoming accustomed to OS X.

It’s kind of ironic, actually…people who used Windows PCs didn’t want to try Macs and OS X because they didn’t want to learn a new operating system, and their software wouldn’t run on it. Now, many are switching to Apple for the same reason–they don’t want to learn Windows 8…and, their older Windows software runs on it just fine.

“How’s that?”, you ask.

Apple switched all Macs to Intel processors in 2006, which means you can run Windows and its apps on a Mac. Many do just that every day.

Windows 8 adoption will soon surpass that of OS X 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’

PCWorld.com is reporting that very soon, the oft-maligned Windows 8 will soon move past Apple’s OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion” in the consumer rate of adoption amongst operating systems.

And, not surprisingly, Windows 8’s adoption rate is much poorer than Vista was at the same point in its product lifespan. The reason: it had been several years since the debut of XP, and there was no reason to avoid the new OS, because Microsoft had not served up an OS that the public didn’t snap up (although “Me” was an interesting experiment.)

Well…not yet, anyway.

Considering the generally poor press Windows 8 has received–and the generally good press Apple receives for its OS X versions, this is a bit of a surprise.

While there’s no disputing the figures, let’s not lose sight of the other numbers that show only a small percentage of all computers have OS X in the first place. What’s got to be disturbing for Microsoft, however…is that Windows is on just 30 percent of all consumer computing devices, which is down 40 percent in just four years. (If that sounds unusually low, “consumer computing devices” includes smartphones and tablets.)

Here’s the story:

Wait until January before you cast judgment on Windows 8, they said. That’s when the big boost from holiday sales will—or won’t—show up, and you’ll be able to get a better idea of how the operating system is doing. Well, Net Application’s January desktop usage data is in. What do the numbers show? Is Windows 8’s usage rate lagging?

It depends on how you look at it.

NET APPLICATIONS
Net Application’s January desktop share data.

Let’s get the bleak news out of the way first. Three months after its release, Microsoft’s new-look operating system was found on 2.26 percent of all the traditional PCs tracked by Net Applications, whose web measurement network is comprised of 40,000 websites that receive roughly 160 million unique visits each month. By comparison, Windows 7 claimed a 7.57 percent browser share at its three-month mark, while Windows Vista was sitting slightly less pretty with a 3.3 percent share three months in.

The monthly gulf between Windows Vista’s uptake and Windows 8’s uptake is only widening, in other words. People still consider Windows Vista to be a stinker, rightly or wrongly, and that reputation no doubt helped to fuel Windows 7’s lightning-fast adoption. Conversely, Windows 7’s all-around excellence is likely holding back Windows 8—there simply isn’t a compelling reason to leap to Windows 8 and its redesigned modern UI if you’re a happy Windows 7 user.

Don’t be hasty to blame Windows 8’s slow uptake on declining PC sales, either. While the computer industry did suffer a contraction in 2012, digging through data from Gartner—a research analytics firm—reveals that just over 90 million PCs were sold in fourth quarters of both 2009 and 2012 (the launch windows for Windows 7 and 8, respectively). In fact, about 300,000 more PCs sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 than in 2009. The appearance of Windows 7 gave PC sales a tremendous shot in the arm, however, while Windows 8’s launch has not.

The news isn’t all bad for Microsoft, though. The various Windows iterations still account for nearly 92 percent of all desktop visitors to Net Application’s websites. Windows as a family is doing fine, even if Windows 8 is struggling to make an impact.

Plus, while Windows 8 might not be living up to the usage standards established by its forebears, it’s almost caught up to Apple. Mac OS X 10.8—you may know it better as “Mountain Lion”—has been available since all the way back in July, and it still only claims a 2.44 percent usage share in Net Application’s report, despite the appearance of new iMacs and Retina Display-packing MacBook Pro laptops. Expect Windows 8’s usage share to sneak past Mountain Lion’s this month.

The difference between the approaches Apple and Microsoft employ when attracting customers is simply put. Apple wants you to own a Mac of some flavor…if, however, you chose not to–well, there’s always the iPad and iPhone. If you choose none of their products, hey that’s okay too. Perhaps another time.

Microsoft cannot afford such a strategy. Especially after Steve Ballmer, their CEO, has already said the company is “all in” with Windows 8. It’s do or die time.

A 170MB Linux download that’s targeted for smaller computers

For some time, Linux has been viewed as a distant alternative to the Windows family. Within a few years of its introduction in 2001, Apple’s OS X had moved into an admittedly distant second place for many mainstream users behind Windows–thus pushing Linux even farther back as a choice.

Linux has actually been ported (adapted for installation) on more computers around the world than any other OS, Windows included.

While OS X only runs on Apple’s computers, Linux was originally designed for x86 machines–in other words, PCs. So if you have a Windows machine, you likely could be running Linux on it. In fact, here’s an article that talks about why you might want to be using the latest version of Linux–Ubuntu 12.10–instead of Windows 8.)

Without going into a explanation of what exactly Linux is (you can read about that here) and why it’s so different from the other two, let’s just say that it’s basically free to use, and open source. Which means–to put it very simply–if you knew how to write programming code, you could alter the OS to include your own ideas.

Now, if you have a smaller PC or computing device with an Rk3066 processor, you probably can install the newest Linux distribution–PicUntu–on it. The download is only 170MB, which is incredibly small for an OS. An article from PCWorld.com tells more:

Anyone who’s watched the PC industry at all over the past year or so has surely noticed the flood of tiny, Linux-powered PCs that have been flooding the market.

The Raspberry Pi is certainly the best-known example of this growing new class, but it’s by no means the only one, accompanied as it has been by the likes of the MK802, the Cotton Candy, the UG802, the Mele A1000, and virtually countless others.

While there certainly are exceptions—perhaps most notably, the $160 CuBox Pro—most of these devices include just 1GB RAM. Typically, they also run Linux-based Android and/or Ubuntu Linux.

Now, however, there’s PicUntu, a Linux distribution tailored specifically to the deliberately minimal specs of these diminutive devices.

‘No more than 170 MB’

“We are happy to announce the world’s first complete Linux distribution for the RK3066,” wrote the PicUntu team in a recent blog post, referring to the chip that powers the Android mini-PC by the same name as well as numerous other tiny devices.

“Starting with a minimal download of no more than 170 MB, you can use menus and simple selections to configure your system to be a full fledged system,” the project team added.

Potential applications for the resulting device include a company Web server, corporate mail server, central database server, content manager, “developer’s paradise,” or power GUI desktop, it says, with optional extras available such as Flash, graphics programs, and Office suite clones.

Just like anything else, some choices aren’t for everyone, and Linux might not be a good fit for them.

But–if you’ve got an independent spirit and the right computer hardware, It could be just the right fit for you.

Why there should be a Windows App Store

Much has been written about app stores–online servers, each run by their respective companies, that sell software (apps) to the users of those systems. Most of the major platforms have app stores: Apple, BlackBerry and Android were first, followed most recently by Windows.

Generally speaking, app stores can be a good–sometimes only–source of apps for that system. For example, Apple’s iOS App Store is the sole supplier of apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (unless the device is jailbroken–unauthorized changes have been made to the hardware system contrary to Apple’s policies). BlackBerry and Android offer apps through their stores, but these are (for the most part anyway) open platforms, and there are other places where one could could get third-party ones.

At present Apple has a Mac App Store, but users of that system are not forced to run only apps from that store…at least, not yet. Some are frightened at the very real possibility that at some point Apple will lock down its Mac App Store the same way it has its iOS one. This is especially disconcerting, as OS X and iOS appear to be slowly merging into one OS.

Some controversy arose when Microsoft announced it would be opening its own app store, largely because of the huge and overwhelming success of Apple’s. It, too, would be the sole supplier of apps for Windows 8, unless users wanted to use unsavory and unauthorized techniques to open up their system.

Everyone (except most Apple users) say they want an open system. Be careful of what you wish for.

In a recent story, PCWorld.com discussed why the Microsoft App Store is a good idea:

Even as Microsoft tries to popularize its Windows Store for PC apps, shown above, the market for Windows crapware remains alive and well.

A couple of stories have bubbled up recently about how lucrative the crapware business can be. It started with a post from TechCrunch about InstallMonetizer, a wrapper for Windows desktop software that presents “offers” to users after installation. For instance, users might see an offer to install a third-party browser toolbar or some anti-virus software. If the user agrees, the original software developer gets paid.

The idea of crapware installers isn’t new. What’s interesting about this particular example—aside from its seemingly contradictory privacy policies—is that it’s backed by $500,000 in venture capital and supported by startup accelerator Y Combinator. Vince Mundy, CEO of InstallMonetizer, told TechCrunch that the software is profitable, and that it doubles its number of bundled software installations every two or three months. It’s good to be a crapware pusher.

The story on InstallMonetizer stoked an even more interesting story by Long Zheng, who develops the Twitter client MetroTwit for Windows. On his blog, Zheng talked about a few of the offers he’s received over the years to wrap crapware installers around MetroTwit.

One of these offers estimated that Zheng would earn $90,000 to $120,000 per year for participating. (Zheng refused, citing a strict policy not to install any third-party apps with MetroTwit.)

MetroTwit

InstallMonetizer frames itself as a way to help small developers make money on their hard work. And in fairness, the company says screens its advertisers for potential adware and spyware history.

Still, no matter how safe the service is, there’s no getting around the inherent sleaziness of a program that tries to pile toolbars and other unwanted junk on top of the thing you actually downloaded.

This is exactly why Windows needs its own app store, despite the protests of veteran users who loathe closed ecosystems. Though I hope Microsoft always allows Windows users to install desktop software, the best way fend off crapware is to also provide a controlled environment, such as the Windows Store, for users who want it. That way, users won’t end up with unwanted software, and developers can tap into the store’s existing systems for billing and in-app purchases, ideally leading to more sales.

The Windows Store is still young, and unlikely to cripple the crapware market any time soon. But hopefully it’ll grow over time, pulling users away from unscrupulous desktop software and making the crapware business a little less lucrative.

Like the other changes and new items Microsoft has announced in the past several months, this one might take a while to catch on as well.