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Round 2: Revenge of the Generics

Last post, so long ago I know, I compared some music player computer programs. Today I shall review Open Office, for all those who don’t want to line Bill Gates’ massive pockets by paying for Microsoft Office (seriously, Microsoft is the final boss in Shadow of the Colossus).

Open Office
Open Office has equivalents to all of the Microsoft Office programs, like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I’ve used Open Office’s version of Word, called Writer, the most, and it really is just like Word. Some of the buttons are changed around, but they’re both pretty similar word processors.

I do have a complaint- they try to do the same thing that newer versions of Microsoft Office have done, with the .docx file extension. The default file format to save in is an Open Office only format, which you can change, but it’s just annoying that they’re claiming to be different from Microsoft by being a free alternative, but then pulling the same crap that can screw people up. Other than this, there is nothing wrong with finding your freeware at http://www.openoffice.org.

Mac or PC?
I’m going to do this rant-style, because I really don’t have anything good to say about Macs. Those commercials they’ve been playing recently about Mac vs. PC, how Macs are so much better, are oversimplified propaganda, for these reasons.

1) Macs are usually more difficult to use because people are used to PCs. When I use a Mac, it takes me some time to remember which buttons do what I want, and how to access certain things.

2) Right click is possible on Macs, but you have to ENABLE it. Newer Macs have mice with right click buttons, but seriously. What’s the deal with that? It’s like putting on an eye patch because you don’t really need two eyes to see. (Because depth perception? Totally overrated.)

3) Based on personal experience, I have only ever had 1 serious virus on a PC, and have dealt with much crappier Macs even when they were running correctly. I also know several Macs at my work have been screwing up lately. My own PC issues have been significant only because of how long I’ve been using PCs, compared to my limited Mac usage.

4) The claim that PCs have “hundreds of headaches” that Macs don’t seems to be a lie to me. This is just propaganda designed to convince people that they have an alternative to PCs, when Mac really isn’t much better. Both Oss can run most of the same programs, so the stereotype of artists using Macs doesn’t really hold anymore. You don’t have to buy a Mac as soon as you declare an Art major. You can’t play many video games on a Mac either.

5) Okay, I will say one good thing about Macs. At least they give Microsoft some competition. Bill Gates does not have a complete monopoly yet. Sure, he’s got Boardwalk, but Mac has Park Place, so those of us who can barely afford an apartment on Baltic Avenue can still afford a laptop (or a Macbook, for those of you who completely disagree with this entire post).

Lastly, I have not mentioned Linux in this post until this point, mostly because I have never seen a Linux machine that worked. People talk about how great Linux is, yet can’t ever seem to get it to function correctly on their own machines. So until I see something positive about this freeware, I think it’s safe for me to say that sometimes, you do get what you pay for.

Off Brand Programs Part 1

Left 4 Dead proves that generics work just as well as the real thing.

Left 4 Dead proves that generics work just as well as the real thing.

Why pay full price for something just because everyone else uses it? You’re just paying for a name, for the advertising, right? Is the same true of computer programs? I’ve grown up using the popular ones — Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, iTunes. I never knew there were many other options. So for all those people who used to be like me, here is my review of a few nifty ways to save some money and support freeware.

Great alternatives to iTunes: Winamp, Mediamonkey

I received an iPod as a gift, so naturally I downloaded iTunes to manage it and all my music. It worked great for a while, until I noticed how messy the organization system was. iTunes made double copies of all my music folders, and so I went in and re-organized it all myself, which took a while but freed up some space. And for some reason all of my music was physically downloaded onto my iPod, which took some time to sort out.

Anyway, you can blame my low knowledge of iTunes for most of that stuff, which was mostly just based on ignorance of what the crap iTunes was doing to my music. So, instead of dealing with iTunes on my next computer, I made the switch to Winamp. I’m still getting used to all the functions, and it was not nearly as easy to manage my iPod at first, but I figured it out eventually and now Winamp runs much more smoothly on my computer than iTunes ever did. It uses 1/3 the CPU power (see below site), among other things, and has tons of plugins and support.

After re-formatting my old computer, I decided to check out my other media player options and found this site: http://www.skytopia.com/project/articles/music/players.html I gave Mediamonkey a try, but I couldn’t figure out how to import my ipod playlists, and lots of people had had the same problem, so I’m back to Winamp.

My particular problem aside, Mediamonkey is actually slightly better than Winamp at things like customizing tags, smart playlists, being able to burn MP3s to CD, etc. So, though MM didn’t work so well for me, it’s an interesting player to try without dumping Windows Media Player and iTunes bloatware on your comp.

Overall: Winamp’s my favorite so far, but Mediamonkey would be a close second if its iPod support was improved. This post has gotten a bit longer than I expected, so let’s make it a two-parter and finish it off later with a review of Open Office and Mac/Linux vs. PC.