The Grouse

Why 4G is Nothing More Than a Band-Aid (and Why the FCC Isn’t Helping)

On vacation on Cape Cod, my now-insatiable need for constant connectivity provides a revelation

Besides world peace and a visit from the Publishers Clearing House van, the one thing I want in life is an always-on Internet connection—and, I want it affordably. More specifically, I want always accessible, reasonably priced, quick and dependable wireless Internet. After all, my broadband connection through the cable company is technically always on, but it’s worthless once I walk out of the house. It stands to reason, then, that only a mobile provider will ever be capable of fulfilling this wish.

It dawned on me while on vacation recently that I actually already have what I’ve always wanted. The problem is that it’s a last-generation definition of what Internet access is and needs to be.

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Microsoft: “Sayonara Vista…Hello 7!”

After a few embattled years pushing Vista, Microsoft gets its second wind

Is Microsoft finally admitting that Windows Vista is a lost cause? Well, that’s certainly not the official company line, but it does kind of seem that way to me. The embattled OS’s successor, Windows 7, wraps up a public beta in a few days and speculation is that Microsoft is planning to crown its heir to the Windows kingdom as early as the Fall. By then, Vista will have been on store shelves for less than three years. That’s not a very long time compared to XP, which was top dog for five years before being replaced by Vista—if it was ever really replaced at all.

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A Tech Guide for the Newly Jobless

The Grouse unveils the 13 gadgets, Web sites, and tricks you'll need to weather the unemployed storm

Been laid off? Sacked? Canned? Made redundant? Welcome to the new economy! Now that you’ve parted ways with regular pay, it’s time to make a few lifestyle tweaks to help keep your head bobbing above the poverty line. First of all, don’t worry a thing about your monthly health insurance payment—that nut will disappear all by itself when your coverage runs out. I’m talking about your tech habits and what you need to know while riding out this exile from the working world. As a gadget buff who has clocked some serious time “in between jobs” myself, I offer up this checklist of the bad tech to avoid and the good tech to embrace as you ease into your new situation.

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How to Lose Traffic and Alienate People

One more suspect search result or advertisement with audio and the Grouse may just lose his mind

Whether you want to call it “2.0” or not, the fact is that a better, stronger, faster Web experience is quickly replacing the old one, and there’s a lot out there to be psyched about. But, for every Google Maps, Facebook and Flickr that does (most) everything right, there are a thousand more Web sites out there still clinging to archaic, annoying and even deceptive practices. What the operators of these sites fail to understand is that forcing me to endure these “experiences” is worse than not having a Web site at all.

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The Convention Flunkies

In a month of major product unveilings, the Grouse unveils his picks for the pits

With tech companies firing, Steve Jobs ailing (get well, Steve!) and the auto industry in a downward spiral, it’s no wonder that the first of 2009’s big shows were a bit ho-hum.

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The Ugly Business of Extended Warranties

Worth the money? The Grouse weighs in

Were you suckered into buying an extended warranty on a tech purchase this past holiday season? Take a closer read of the fine print, because you're not as covered as you might think. Scratches? Not a chance. A power surge? If you're lucky. Nuclear holocaust? Nope. But, more on that later.

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A Purely Fantastical Holiday Guide

Visions of sugar plums, MacBooks, PS3s and BlackBerrys are dancing through the Grouse's head as he unveils what he'd really like this holiday season

This week, as children across the land burden the laps of portly, temporary mall help to cast last minute wishes for footballs, tinker toys and Red Rider BB guns, I’ll be sitting at my desk, fingers-crossed with a few holiday fancies of my own. I’d like to think I’ve been a well behaved boy this year, so in addition to old standbys like world peace, good will toward men and a substantial lottery win, I’m asking for these five tech-related gifts—as infuriatingly unlikely as they may be.

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The Pigskin Experiment: 3-D Football

The Grouse unveils his take on all three dimensions

In case you didn’t hear (because you live in Australia and, let's be serious, you have a few other sports to follow first), the first-ever 3-D broadcast of an NFL game recently went down. Don’t worry if you missed it, because your old buddy The Grouse was present to bring you this report from the front lines. Or, the line of scrimmage, as it were.

The NFL hopes to someday bring 3-D football to the pigskin loving public at large. This preview was a demo of what we might someday see play out in movie theaters across the country. That’s right—the game was shown in the same type of movie theaters you’d watch one of those Disney 3-D movies in, which should be your first clue that this was definitely a different way of watching football.

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10 Terrible Tech Ads

The Grouse just can't take these ads any longer

If the late-’90s dot-com boom was the original Golden Age for awful TV tech ads, then today we are surely living in the Renaissance. Yes, back then we had the sock puppet and lots and lots of chimps, but take a spin around the dial and I think you’ll agree that there are now more technology-related ads on television than ever—most of them quite terrible. Here are the ten that bug me the most, and I invite you to please cut loose in the comments on any offenders I neglect to mention.

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Fear and Loathing in the Online Office Suite

Wherein The Grouse tries to save some dough by abandoning Word

As part of my ongoing, personal economic bailout plan, this week I began tinkering around with a couple of the free, online office suites that are available. After all, why shell out a few hundred clams for Microsoft Office when others are giving it away for free? Unfortunately, after a week of getting to know Google Docs and Zoho Writer, here I am typing this week’s column from the comfort and safety of a bought-and-paid-for copy of Microsoft Word. Why? Because I came to realize something about myself over the course of this week: At 30 years old, I’m already an old fart.

More on that later.

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Desktop Linux – Will It Ever Stick?

The Grouse explores netbooks and muses over Joe Windows' take

About seven years ago, I tried to free myself from the oppression and misery of running Windows ME by installing Linux on my PC. Ever installed the Linux operating system? It’s not for the faint of heart. So, when it was recently reported that Linux-based netbooks are being returned at a rate four-times higher than their Windows-based brethren, I can’t say I was surprised.

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Double A-OK

Wherein the Grouse surveys his chargeable devices and bemoans the lack of standards

I bet the ’80s was a good decade for Energizer, Duracell and their ilk. I mean, it was a good decade for sharkskin, too, but the ’80s had to be the absolute peak for these battery makers. Suddenly, it seemed like everything required portable juice: that new-fangled wireless TV remote, the Walkman, my futuristic calculator watch and, of course, all of those awesomely high-tech electronic toys like Simon (which actually had its launch party at Studio 54!).

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Backing Up is Hard to Do

Wherein the Grouse surveys his life and finds some serious problems with committing one's data

Backing up my computer’s hard drive has always been like flossing: I know I should be doing it even though it’s one of life’s more prickly pains in the butt. Both chores are the kinds of thing you can never fully appreciate until something goes horribly wrong, like a hard drive fries or some teeth start jiggling loose.

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Can I Have My SSN Back?

Maybe just one or two digits? The Grouse wishes corporate ownership of our personal data wasn't so irreversible

I like to think I'm protective of my sensitive personal info. I rip bills and credit card offers into confetti before throwing them out, I never give out my Social Security number, and I can spot a phishing scheme with the best of them. But I've recently come to realize that the safeguarding of my most intimate personal details is completely out of my hands.

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Video Game Déjà Vu

Where have all the creatives gone? The Grouse explores his (lack of) options in this week's column

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but they neglected to mention that it’s also a crushing chokehold on the windpipe of creativity. Nowhere is this fact of life more apparent than in this fall’s lineup of upcoming and recently released video games. Look a little closer and you’ll realize—with a few exceptions—that it’s not just this season’s selection of pixelly diversions that suffer from a general lack of originality; it’s a long-running ailment endemic to the entire video game industry.

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