Category Archives: Apple

What the heck is Xamarin?

Xamarin on the Rise

By mid-2014 Xamarin is starting to pick up some traction in the market. There are more Xamarin jobs (paying very well) then there are programmers to do the work. So I get a lot of questions from recruiters and students about “What the Heck is Xamarin”?


So What the Heck Is Xamarin?

If you are a Microsoft shop C# is likely your language of choice. And Visual Studio your choice of IDE. Xamarin is two things:

  • a Visual Studio add-on so you can program Windows, Mac, Android or iOS apps* in C#.
  • a IDE for the Macintosh and Linux so you can Windows, Mac, Android or iOS apps in C#. (Visual Studio does not run on Mac or Linux)
  • an alternative to learning Objective-C and XCode on Mac or Eclipse and Java on Mac or Linux or Windows to program Android apps.

* even if you only use Visual Studio on Windows to build iOS Apps, you will need a Mac that will be used to compile your iOS code.


So Why Choose Xamarin?

There are several compelling reasons

  • You are a Microsoft shop and a C# Zealot you have to build Android and/or Mac and/or iOS apps.
  • Learning Eclipse, Objective-C, Swift, XCode scares you to death. A Mac or Linux machine is not your cup of tea.
  • You did not like the price tag of my favorite tool  Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies  to do this although it’s C++ orientation (Delphi is available too, a language invented by the C# creator Anders Hejlsberg).
  • Because Microsoft told you too! (don’t laugh that has worked for them for decades with developers).

So these are all legit reasons, and they are why Xamarin’s star is rising.


So Why Not Xamarin?

There are good reasons to not use Xamarin as well.

Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies may be more expensive (almost 5 x the cost fully loaded) but ITS MORE EXPENSIVE FOR A REASON.

  • XCode and SWIFT rock for iOS programming.
    • If you are a C# programmer get out of your comfort zone and try an Angel you don’t know, and don’t waste too much time griping its not the devil you know.
    • Even Objective C is nice compared to C++. So while it is a bit dated it is a nice superset of C and C++.
    • More frameworks and 3rd party libraries and open source libraries available than with Xamarin.
  • Eclipse and Java is multi-platform (and while it is worse than VStudio with the right add-ins it can be quite nice) and learning new stuff is always fun unless you are stubborn.
    • Its not THAT hard its just difference. Hard is macro-assembler or VI. Eclipse is easy.
    • More frameworks and 3rd party libraries and open source libraries available than with Xamarin.
  • You have Simpler Cloud and iOS and Android needs that can be met with
    • PhoneGap
    • Icenium

The above frameworks and code-generation tools do a LOT of the work for you and are built on HTML 5 and JavaScript instead of low-level code with all that implies good and bad.



How do I learn it? What does it cost?

Well the good news is there are not many books, so you won’t go broke buying every Xamarin book. The bad news is since there are not many books you better be great at Googling and teaching yourself. As for the cost at the time of this writing the Xamarin IDE for Linux or Mac costs about $83/month (about $1,000 a year).

  • Renowned author Charles Petzold wrote a book that you can get a free preview edition of here @
  • The Xamarin cookbook by Dimitris Tavlikos focusing on iOS is good @

If you have any favorite Xamarin books or learning resources, please share it in a comment so we can add it here.

My Xamarin predictions


Xamarin is young and with 30+ years in the computer field and business/marketing prediction field I can safely give you a roadmap of Xamarin’s future:

  • Microsoft will buy it or clone/steal it.
  • If MS clones it, it will take the form of a Mac and Linux VStudio first with a FREE Xamarin add-in before they ditch it for a “built in house” replacement.
  • The cross platform Framework may catch up to Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies in a few years.
  • Basically the need for a MAC will go away because they will invent a Virtual Cloud Mac that transparently compiles it for you via WebService.

These predictions were made on November 2014 and will be updated as they occur, or something happens that proves they will never occur.

Embarcadero Rad Studio: What the Heck Is It?



What the Heck is Rad Studio?

Embarcadero Rad Studio which is a IDE and several Framework that allows you to write one set of code that compiles and runs on

  • Windows Desktop app
  • Mac Desktop app
  • iPhone app
  • iPad app
  • Android phones and Tablet
  • Blackberry
  • Windows Store 8
  • Cloud website

One Code Base for many Platforms and Devices

Yes really one code base for all those platform, yet generating native code on each. It also

  • handles WebServices and Json and connecting server databases to Tablets and Phones better than any MS tool I know
  • Integrates with Interbase an obscure but very powerful light database (very old and respected has been around over 30 years) that competes with mySQL, SQL server Compact, SQLlite in the embedded front.
  • Offers a C++ or Delphi edition (Delphi was invented by Anders Hejlsberg inventor of Turbo Pascal, Turbo Modula and C#)
    Anders Hejlsberg

I went to a 6 hour demo one Saturday in mid November 2013 and it was amazing to watch. It truly offers a really lightweight set of tools and Frameworks to build core code that runs on many platforms, then write any platform specific code or APIs as needed when the Framework does not offer something.

keep-calm-and-choose-wisely-33 so-why-choose-us

Why Use Rad Studio?

  • You want quick results and you need to support more devices and platforms than Xamarin or other cross platform Frameworks support.
  • Efficiency of code size, database size, compiled code size matters, i.e. you are very old school and want your redistributables as small as possible in Disk and RAM consumption.


Why Not Use Rad Studio?

  • You are a language bigot so you think C# or Java is the ONLY language you will code in so C++ 11 or Delphi are something you just are not comfortable doing. There are cross platform frameworks for Java and C# so you are welcome to go that way. I plan a round up of them soon in a future blog entry.
  • Some people despite the power and elegance of Interbase may feel SQL Lite or other Databases are a better choice. In that case use them, heck use SQL Server or Oracle it has superb support for client devices talking to server databases via Web Services in a very easy way. Even can generate the Web Services if you are too lazy or just don’t have time to write them.
  • You think $5,000 is too much for a multi-device programming tool and would rather use open source frameworks or “roll your own”. Well if so go for it, but remember your programming time translates to a chunk of your life and high billing rates for client, so as the Japanese say “sometimes the FREE thing is the most expensive” or “some times the short cut is the long way”.

Happy Coding on all your Platforms – Charles Carroll


Streaming TV Comparison: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku


Reviewing TV Streaming Devices

I should preface this by saying I own all 4 and use them for a variety of tasks so I think my experience is pretty complete. I love my streaming TV solutions to watch NetFlix, HBO-To-Go, Amazon Prime Movies and TV, listen to Pandora and Internet Radio (listen to NPR and Music Radio Stations on my TV is nice).


If you have questions, is the place to ask them.


Roku HD

Here is what distinguishes Roku from the others:

  • The best remote (at least the HD version). Best feel. Includes headset support.
  • Excellent Remote apps for Android and iDevices.
  • More apps (which they call Channels) and better apps than all others.
  • Better on screen keyboard for password entry (although app can be used too)
  • Worse sound quality than Apple TV, close to same picture quality.
  • Best search in terms of being able to search for contents across multiple apps.
  • Amazon Prime app (the main thing Apple is missing among others)
  • Dedicated Ethernet port (can reduce traffic on your WiFi to use it, plus unless you have gigabit Wifi, out performs WiFi)

If one can only buy one, Roku is a GREAT choice. Many more Apps/Channels than anyone else has. Dedicated Ted Talks, College Classes, CrunchyRoll, Silent Movies, Crackle, etc. You name a content item and Roku has a channel for it. It even has private channels see


Apple TV

Here is what makes Apple stand out:

  • Best sound quality
  • Decent remote. The lack of key labels and back button makes it a bit clumsy if you are spoiled by Roku remote.
  • Less Apps than Roku most importantly missing Amazon Prime*
  • Purchase support via iTunes is multi-device and Apple’s cloud more likely to be here in a decade or 2 compared to Roku cloud apps.
  • Airplay (playing screen from Mac, iPad, Phone) and playing screen from Windows or Android is most mature here. It has to be with the shortage of apps.

Fire TV

Fire TV is about same price as Roku and Apple TV. the stick version is way cheaper but also crippled so I feel not worth it.

  • Remote is better than Apple (more and better buttons, right “feel”) and worse than Roku.
  • Have not tried the remote apps no opinion yet.
  • The UI is a bit clunky and treats content and apps as equal which is a blessing or curse. In other words if you play 3 albums and 6 movies and access 5 apps you will have 14 choices on screen as if the content is an app. Neither Roku or Apple TV does that.
  • Less Apps than Roku, less apps than Apple TV. The Amazon Cloud player is much much much better than the Roku one. The Amazon Prime player has a clunkier UI and information overload compared to the Roku app/channel.
  • Better on screen keyboard for password entry than Apple (although app can be used too)
  • Picture and sound quality are very good.
  • Voice search rocks! Needs to be copied by Roku and Apple.
  • Dedicated Ethernet port (can reduce traffic on your WiFi to use it, plus unless you have gigabit Wifi, out performs WiFi)

Chromecast by Google – a dissapointment by comparison

  • No Remote 🙁
  • Ties up your Android device or PC when playing content (Roku and Apple TV do not)
  • Disconnects a lot.
  • Way less Apps than Roku, less apps than Apple TV. The Amazon Cloud player is much much much better than the Roku one.
  • Only works with Chrome browser extensions. NO Airplay (playing screen from Mac, iPad, Phone) and playing screen from Windows, unless its a Chrome browser tab. Android airplay yes.
  • Picture and sound quality are decent, not as good as Apple TV.
  • No content search!
  • No dedicated Ethernet port (can reduce traffic on your WiFi to use it, plus unless you have gigabit Wifi, out performs WiFi)

Stick TVs in General

Crippled version of above but cheaper. Not recommended unless you are really broke and cant afford Roku HD or Apple TV. The stick Roku and Fire are still both better than Chromecast.


Roku TV is the winner. Apple TV and Fire TV are very good. Chromecast is far from it’s potential and the wrong kind of device – remotes DO matter.



What Do Other Reviewers say:

They come to similar conclusions and offer some more depth if you need even more data:

Buiid your own Streaming Box

There are a few mays for the patient, frugal, super skilled types:

Hopefully you have all the data you need to make an informed decision.


Need any Questions answered or help using the device?

If you have questions,
is the place to ask them.

DRAFT – Why I am blown away by my Mac, and NOT a fanboy

mac-rocks-sweater apple-boot-camp-mac-does-windows-too

Mac Advantages / Transition for a Windows User

Quite a few
  • Lower TCO
  • higher security, much higher
  • higher resale value

25+ years of Windows use and upgrades and STILL using it

I have used Windows since 1.0. I test new versions of Windows – I run it and support it on a few dozen machines. I know it well, check out
I am a Mac user and a heavy Windows user and an Android user and an iOS user and a casual Linux user.

Fanboy Accusations are Nonsense

A lame attempt at “Mac Shaming” 😀 I guess people got tired of “rape victim shaming”, “native American shaming” (they were all warlike savages, but Brits were colonizing China and India with hugs and chocolate) so now its “Platform shaming”.
On forums whenever someone praises an Apple device or OS someone tries to destroy their credibility by calling him or her a Fanboi. I have a big problem like that because it is textbook projection usually being stated by Windows Fanboy, Android Fanboy, Linux Fanboy.
First lets define what a Fanboy is. At it’s heart its the embodiment of “confirmation bias” i.e.
and the ONLY way I trust a review of any product to not have Fanboy tint is from someone who has massive time in with both devices/software/platforms. If someone owns a Mac and rarely uses a PC/Windows machine I will not trust their review of latter and vice versa. Same for Android and iPhones. Same for Linux and Mac, Or Linux and Windows. I would even go further and say they should use each device for the same tasks to have a credible opinion.
There are plenty of Windows and Android and Linux fanboys. Big whoop its called ‘confirmation bias’. I switched to Apple 2.5 years ago after over 30 years of Windows (20+ computers I owned) and using 4 Android phones and 2 tablets since Android 1.x and once I switched I found all my beliefs about Apple were flat out wrong and based on confirmation bias.
Some of my fave Fanboy articles

Daily Reasons I am impressed with Mac OS X

Well for starters my MacBook Pro not only runs a Mac OS X which has:
  • much better 2 monitor support for my programming and productivity. Best part when I unplug a 2nd or 3rd monitor all my Windows switch over to 1st monitor.
  • A free non-crippled IDE (XCode) to create apps (whereas paid VStudio is a necessity to build Win Apps).
  • My MacBook can run Linux apps. My PC cannot except in a VM.
  • It can dual boot Windows (or run simultaneously with Parallels). Because Apple takes the device drivers for its hardware more seriously than Dell and HP the 10% of the time I do run Windows on it, it has none of the device driver glitches I encountered in most of my 20+ Windows installations on 20 pieces of approved Windows hardware.
  • It has an app store for Desktop Apps whereas Windows does not. The Windows app store is for Metro apps only, they have no desktop app store.
  • Only 110 viruses to worry all of which the current OS protect against. I still have to clean family and friends Win 7 and Win 8s given how weak the OS security is and MS ‘blames the user ‘ while claiming great security. The 14 Windows 7 and 8 machines I cleaned this year beg to differ with that and the 100s more I read about in groups.
  • Apps are cheap and powerful,
  • Built-in OS apps are friendly and powerful not throw away.
  • Printers, Bluetooth devices and USB drives install in seconds without taking minutes of “detecting device” and “insert CD” that Windows 7 and 8 still do on just mundane devices.

The Hardware and The Accessories

  • I learn tons from MacLife and MacWorld magazine about how to use my Mac for awesome things with apps. My Windows magazines are about registry and tweaks and protecting myself more because the OS is not with little emphasis on productivity apps.
  • I use Dvorak on Windows and Linux – meant I don’t have to use an external keyboard for my laptop if I want labels. For me this is a godsend!

I was/am a Microsoft Fanboy!

I have owned well over a dozen very high end PCs, and made offices I consulted at buy several hundred more. I was always too snobbish to buy a Mac and always had an excuse. I believed the Microsoft FUD since Window 1.0/DOS 1.0 hook line and sinker.

I put it off forever but when I bought my Macbook Retina Pro it was great value for money compared to PC and so much faster. TCO is way lower – I spend no time on troubleshooting tasks that ate up so much time on PC and backups are reliable and Apple Care is higher value than Dell/HP Premium support and if you never use it – they refund it I am not kidding Apple TV airplay support and iCloud and Time Machine = priceless. Since it has 5 million + pixels and very fast SSD disk, graphics cards, and Thunderbolt and USB 3 ports it is better value than any high end Windows laptop I have owned. I never am buying a Windows machine again for family – its worth the extra. Too many hard disk crashes on PCs over the years and backup is not reliable whereas Time Machine is reliable, gives past version of files too, and easy and FREE (and WinClone to back up BootCamp and re-size Win partiition is $20). 2+ years with no security breaches is fab too – I got attacked constantly under Windows and I defended myself but most lose that war and I end up fixing.

2+ years with my first Mac has been a dream. And I just like Mac OS X – after using Windows since 1.0 its nice to use something more thoughtful and better looking and reliable in so many subtle and practical ways.

Apple treats their customers so well – Apple Care and free/useful cheap OS upgrades and unbelievable iCloud backup and Time Machine magic. The fastest most stable Windows machine I ever used is my MacBook Pro Retina. It runs Windows 7 so well and bug free (Boot Camp/Parallel drivers are glitch free unlike the HP and Dell hardware and other vendors I have used). I only buy Apple Hardware for family and clients now – support is so much better than HP and Dell Premium support and HW is so much lighter and reliable and fast.

The Hardware compared to Windows

  • 5 megapixel + resolution
  • Apple TV integration
  • fast off/on of Lid close
  • long power cord+small brick
  • lightness and thin hardware

is amazing. To be fair the Surface 3 gets closer to the Mac hardware as do many very light convertibles from Asus and Lenovo. But the overall experience is marred by some ugly things:

  • Windows 8.x and Windows 10 compared to Mac OS is substandard on deep technical levels and every superficial level.
  • Speed is worse

Surface 3 has come a long way baby but every level of Mac blows it away.

The Overall Experience compared to Windows

I love that Mac OS X you can reboot and it re-opens all apps/browser tabs, etc. it even did so after Mavericks upgrade all apps re-opened perfectly.

I hated to drag my HP laptops across the room because of weight,thickness, and huge power brick.

Plus keeps my keys so pristine and in my case gives me nice Dvorak labels.

Parallels and BootCamp using the exact same partition (so changes in either environment is consistent) is even more amazing. No more looking up KB articles, downloading drivers, or just allowing errors that crop up to continue because the KBs and HotFixes don’t work (“ahem “delayed write” and hundreds of other Windows errors). Its a breath of fresh air to compute for 2+ years with no major errors, and hardly any minor errors.

I regret I waited till 2 years ago to buy my first Apple Computer. In the meantime the last 2 weeks I am fixing 3 Windows 7 computers for friends and dad who were badly hosed by every kind of malware in universe. All of which could be stopped if Ms had WebService based install black lists since these bad programs were all known entities – there is no excuse that Windows installed them.


Not a Typical Mac User

I am not a typical Mac user. I hardly use my Apple devices in lazy ways, or with little computer knowledge. I do some god awful complex tasks with them that would be impossible or 10 x harder on lesser Windows or Android or Linux devices.
How it works with my iPhone and Android Phone
BTW I use my phones a LOT and downloading 100+ apps on my Android or iPhone the first week – I am a very heavy smart phone user.
As for Android phone
  • I reboot my 4 Androids I own a few times a month (sometimes on bad days 2-3 times a day)
  • Apps hang and crash routinely
  • because it becomes so slow it won’t let me answer a phone call or skype or the GPS location features freeze.
  • And compared to iOS it takes numerous clicks (4-12 to do what I do in 3 or less with iOS)
  • It has 1/1000th the apps. Apps I love on iOS don’t exist on Android.

As for my iPhone and Android…

  • I reboot the iPhone once a month on worst month.
  • The screen was too small on my 5c I was spoiled by Galaxy Notes so I awaited the 6+ to make it my main phone because Apple will have realized screen size does matter.

Apple TV – a killer differentiator

Apple TV is an awesome streaming TV solution (I have reviewed them all)
  • has great wireless support and great features to be my second or third monitor or show my screen to family or students without HDMI cables. AirPlay for Mac.
  • AirParrot for my dual booting Windows 7. Windows has no such gizmo except Chromecast which is severely limited – I own it.
  • has amazing sound quality even on lousy TV speakers, and really good picture quality.

That being said for App Quantity (not Quality) I use my Roku HD – Apple TV is ahead on app quality but lack of store (which Roku has) and some other things Roku has edge for everything but Airplay and sound quality for music and noticeably better picture quality for video. So Apple TV is their weakest product, I am not such a ‘fanboy’ as you call it to not know their flaws.

Called a h8r on every platform

I am called a h8r or FanBoy on all platforms ironically

  • I mention flaws I find in iPhones, Macs or iPads and people call me a “windows lover’ or ‘Android lover’ hardly a fan boy.
  • But in Apple the flaws I complain about get fixed in later OSes.
  • Win 8 so many things not fixed and I have been using since Win 1.0 and DOS 1.0 and things just remain unfixed.

Mountain Lions, Mavericks, iOS 6-8 fixed what I needed and added so much more that Windows and Androids have never had and probably never will.

I run Windows on my Mac all the Time

Summarizing my preference for booting into Mac OS X instead of Windows!
Apple makes great Phones, Tablets, Desktops and Laptops and a streaming TV box. The majority of Windows laptops and desktops are just worse hardware and a worse OS.
The only thing Apple does not have great device for is E-Reading with E-Ink i.e. the Kindle Paper White.
I use 4+ Apple devices as of 2.5 years ago after years of only using Windows and Android devices. I quit drinking the koolaid that ‘Apple devices were inferior and closed compared to Open Windows and Android’ bs once I experienced the power and elegance and speed and safety of Apple products every day.

What about Cloud computing?

Browser based apps are why I bought a Chromebook as my next PC with 1920 x 1080 resolution. But Desktops still can do many things the cloud cannot particularly for Developers like me (Cloud IDEs are very young), and me and others rely on  hundreds of apps that don’t have cloud counterparts yet. So I will at times use my ChromeBook to TeamViewer into my Win machines, Linux machines, Mac Machines to run Desktop apps and Corporate Apps not available in cloud, or the Cloud versions are too far behind feature and power wise. I embrace cloud apps but they are a bit young. is a real favorite and iCloud is way ahead of Android and Windows cloud. And Amazon’s server cloud and dev stack way ahead of Azure.

If its all cloud why do I need a Laptop?

If all our apps on our intranet (+-80,000pc) are browser based, why would I need a Windows machine?
They are built on Desktop and Laptops. Development tools to build cloud apps (Vstudio, Eclipse, Xcode, PhoneBase, SQL Server, Oracle, etc.) are all built on Laptops and Desktops by Developers with Desktop Apps. So without Laptops or Desktop Development Apps you would have no Intranet apps that people like me build. I look forward to the day that all development is based in browsers (IDEs, DBMS front ends, etc.) but we are a few years from that now.

Should YOUR NEXT PC be a Mac?


Who should not get a Mac?


Hope this post opened your Mind


Mac Questions? Great places to get them answered

Mac Help Wanted

I get my Mac questions answered a variety of places of varying quality.

You will get most of your Mac questions answered there.