- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

While America’s official Thanksgiving Day is now more than 10 days past, I’m still feeling grateful for a lot of technology this year.

While 2009 has turned out to be a rather dismal year for millions of Americans, there are still things I believe we can all appreciate that have come from the tech sector this year.

• New versions of computer operating systems — both Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X 10.6, aka “Snow Leopard,” and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 7, aka “It’s Not Vista, All Right?” In both camps, Mac and Windows, there was palpable relief that Snow Leopard is a nice, solid upgrade and that Win7 really isn’t Vista.

Ubuntu, one of the top Linux “distros,” is up to version 9.10, aka “Karmic Koala” — and I’m not making that nickname up. The open systems promise of Linux is catching up to reality, and that’s also a good thing.

• Wireless printing: I’m a little late to the party on this one, but it’s still delightful. Set up a printer, connect it via Wi-Fi to your home network, and you can print from several floors away, if you like, with ease. Not only does this let one printer do the work of several, but it also allows you to keep things neat with one set of printer supplies and one unit to maintain.

I found this happy situation with Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP Photosmark C6380 All-in-One combo of printer/scanner/photo-card reader, available for around $130 or less online, and with a newer model supplanting it recently, which I’ve yet to test. But I like both the ease of wireless printing and the nice way HP let me set this up: Download and install the driver, and it’ll search the network for you to find the printer. I’m impressed.

• So-called “social media” — in particular, Facebook and Twitter. The ability to “push out” quick news items of interest to a small or not-so-small circle of “friends” and “followers” is proving itself each day. Tiger Woods and the reported White House dinner “crashers” might regret the speed with which such services work, but for the rest of us — or at least many of us — it’s the new digital “water cooler” we can all enjoy.

But there’s a practical side to this new media as well, as I discovered in speaking with Twitter promoter Warren Whitlock and social network blogger Jennifer Leggio earlier this year. Twitter, in particular, can move great masses of people very quickly, and that can be a good thing in many situations.

• Videos, viral and otherwise: The other night, I was at an office dinner when a co-worker’s family stood up and sang a nice little song. I wasn’t able to grab the first verse, but I recorded the rest of the song using an Apple iPhone 3GS and the built-in software. The next morning, I uploaded it to the firm’s MobileMe Web site and shared it with the work team. You couldn’t have done that as easily five years ago.

This kind of great, instant, video photography likely won’t win any industry awards, but in the right situation, it’s a wonderful way to make other people happy with little effort. It’s nice, don’t you think?

• Adobe Acrobat, and other ways of working with PDF files: In situation after situation — business, home, personal study, whatever — the ways I can work with the Portable Document Format developed by Adobe Inc. in 1993 continue to astound and delight. I use it at least five days a week, sometimes more, to read vital information, fill out forms and transact all sorts of business. Adobe’s Acrobat Pro is the very best way of working with these files, but there are other programs that offer a great deal of versatility with them as well. If you’re not using PDF to the full, you’re missing out on a lot.

Those are just some things for which I am grateful this year. What are yours?

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.