Monday, December 17, 2012

What is Wrong With This (Outlook) Picture?

I installed Office 2013 the other day and fired-up Outlook   The first thing I immediately noticed were the colors (or lack there-of).  It looks terrible (IMO)!  There are very few colors in a whitewashed screen of goo.  How's that for a description!

Then I noticed there were no real 3D/Aero type of buttons or controls.  Most everything is a flat 2D rendering.

As evidence, I submit to you 3 Outlook screenshots I "borrowed" from various Internet sources (these are not from me).  The data/email is not important, it's that they show the point I'm trying to make:  Microsoft has taken the visual life out of Outlook and all of Office for that matter.

Here's Outlook 2007:

Outlook 2010:

And finally Outlook 2013:

Here they are side-by-side:

I believe they did this for enhanced tablet usage: fewer colors/widgets = faster rendering and lower battery consumption.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, most people will want the best of both worlds = speed, longer battery life and a better visual user experience.  Even on a tablet.  Do I need a "touch"-optimized Word for my tablet?  Sorry, but if I need to enter more than a sentence or two of text, I'm using a keyboard, even on a tablet.  The one exception is note-taking, in which case I'm using a stylus (the subject of a future article).

My prediction is that consumers and business will hold off on upgrading to 2013 and wait to see what Microsoft will come out with next.  Maybe it will be a nice gray-scale text-based UI - but hey, it will be fast!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gear Review: Yakima Lynx

I had a request to post more information about this guitar that I mentioned in a previous post.  First, let me re-state what I know about Yakima.  They were a brand that Kramer used to sell lower-end guitars as they didn't want to diminish the Kramer brand.  They were supposedly manufactured in Korea in the 1980's.  Mine is a 1986/87 left-handed model.  My parents bought this for me when I was a teenager and it was my first "real" guitar.

Here are a couple of full shot pics:

It says "Lynx by Yakima" on the headstock with a paw print/graphic (with and w/o flash).  The dent at the bottom is just one of things that happens when you play guitar a lot.  I sure I banged it into something.  Here it is with and w/o flash:

Grover tuners - very nice!  I think this is a big part of the reason this thing stays in tune really well.  Like I mentioned in the previous post, my friends' Squiers would go out of tune if they looked at the tremolo bar the wrong way.  My Yakima stayed in tune fine unless I used the tremolo excessively but even then it held up pretty good.

Here's the neck pocket.  I know it's a strat because of the small finish crack they all seem to have (hard to see in the second pic but its there)!:

The neck is a one-piece maple with bullet truss-rod and skunk stripe.  The nut is 1 and 11/16th width and the fretboard has a nice 12" radius top-to-bottom:

You might have noticed I removed the nut.  This is a cheap plastic piece.  It has always pinched at least two of the strings so I figured now is the time to replace it with a nice black TUSQ XL.  This can cause tuning and intonation issues.  You know you have a nut problem when you're tuning the guitar and hear a "ping".  I'm not sure I broke it when trying to get it out, or if it was already cracked in two:

Nice clean nut slot awaiting for it's replacement to arrive:

Looks like there might have been some print on the heel at one time, but its unreadable now:

Here's the neck pocket.  You can see the body is hardwood laminate per the layers as seen in the sides of the pocket.  We'll see these lines again when we take off the pickguard.  Note that the neck pocket is nice and tight at the back (where it matters most), but not so much on the upper side:

Body - Back
Moving down to the back of the body, we see a 2-ply cavity cover.  Nice since most modern imports are single-ply.  Taking off the cover we see 4 springs and a nice full-sized steel trem block!  You won't see this on hardly any imports that I'm aware of:

Body - Front
Moving to the front of the body, we have the standard SSS pickup configuration with 5-way switch and VTT knobs.  Unfortunately, I dropped(?) the guitar on the bottom tone knob and it cracked the pickguard in that area.  The good news is that there was no impact to functionality.  The bridge-plate is somewhat rough, partly due to age.  Nice bent steel saddles sound great - very acoustic:

A peek under the pickguard reveals dime-sized pots, nice thick wiring, little shielding and those pickups, hmmm... they don't look like standard ceramic magnets found in most cheap imports today.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong here but they look (and sound) like ALNICO magnets to me.  Finally, more signs of laminate wood.  Most strat enthusiasts prefer alder or ash bodies, but I don't think hardwood laminate is that bad (unlike plywood).  It is very thick, dense and heavy - this thing weighs in at 8.0lbs:


Future Upgrades
I don't want to change things too much as I enjoy the guitar as it is.  However, here is my short list:

  • Body cavity sheilding
  • Replace pickguard
  • Replace dime-sized pots with full-sized pots
  • Replace cheap plastic nut with TUSQ XL (work-in-progress)
  • Replace bridge-plate

If you see a Yakima Lynx for sale, buy it.  It will probably be cheap in price, but not it fit, finish or tone.  This is a very good guitar, on the same level or better than a Classic Vibe.  My one complaint is the weight - too heavy for an extended gigs but no big deal for a hobbyist hack like me.

If you have any more information about Yakima brand or the Lynx line please comment.  Thanks!