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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The iPhone 6 and 6+ Review: Are these bigger phones worth the (much) bigger price tag?

The iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6+ have been in user's hands for about 10 days now and the user reviews are starting to come in.

In user's hands: iPhone 6 (L) and iPhone6+ (R)
To review, the new iPhones are larger (6= 4.7", 6+= 5.5") than the current iPhone 5s and are more in line with Android phone manufacturers who have been offering much more screen real estate for years now. Additionally, the new iPhones arrive with iOS8, a new camera and the ability to pay for your stuff using Near Field Communications technology and a great deal more.

Apple also claims the iPhones are the thinnest Apple phones ever, although I have always been puzzled as to why this claim is so important to their market. If it takes an extra millimeter to add a huge battery for a long life, I don't care- just get it done. But Apple has an obsession with thin, thin, thin and thinks everyone else does too. I don't think it's all that important, but apparently others do.

TechRadar extensively reviewed the phone recently and found it to be a better product all around, although they did criticize it for it's high price and average screen resolution. You can find the review here. Be warned- the review runs for twelve pages and is best viewed on a desktop or tablet as loading a new page every 45 seconds can get tedious.

Stephen Fry with his iPhone 6+ (I told you it was large!)
(courtesy: Gizmodo)
In more humorous vein, British funnyman Stephen Fry- long time and proud tech geek, Apple fan and commentator-  has written his take on the iPhone 6. It is very British with it's terms and lingo and slang, but his message is clear and delightful to read. Click here to go to it.

Will I get one of the bigger iPhone 6 siblings when the time comes to make that decision (March of next year)? I'm not sure...

I mean, my iPhone5 has been trouble-free and reliable for the past 18 months, but the way I use my smartphone doesn't necessarily mean I need a million apps, or one of the gazillion accessories available for the iPhone family. And the cost! Wow...

There's a lot of competition out there from Android and Windows phones and they're just going to get better every few months. So, when March arrives, I'm going to have to think a great deal about my next smartphone choice.

I can't wait.




Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Buy a Motorcycle that ISN'T a Harley Davidson- the 2015 Indian Motorcycle is a Classic Alternative!

Being popular doesn't mean that everyone wants you.

There are people in the world looking to separate themselves from the crowd. They seek out the different, the unusual and the unknown. Motorcycle enthusiasts know this well and look for choices that speak to their personality- that's the reason they buy motorcycles and not a station wagon.

Harley Davidson motorcycles are fantastic bikes, but every dentist, accountant and insurance agent with a mid-life crisis has one. And usually in black. What if I'm one of the folks out there shopping for a different kind of bike? A choice that isn't necessarily the popular or expected one? There's even a Facebook page dissing the ride from Milwaukee.

That's why the free market exists, my friends. There is apparently enough demand for a classically styled  motorcycle that isn't a Harley to support competition for that 53 year-old salesman's hard earned money.

Put this in a group of typical black Harleys and see who gets noticed.
(motorcycle.com)
Indian Motorcycle is a name nearly as legendary as Harley Davidson. Born at the turn of the last century, Indian disappeared from the scene in the 50's but was resurrected in the early 2000's as an entry into the growing market for classic motorcycles.

NOT a Harley.
(Indianmotorcycle.com)
Ever since its Phoenix-like rise, Indian has built a near cult following with it's brawny appearance and relative rarity. This doesn't mean the Indian is primitive, however. It's packed with state of the art electronics and options that allow it to keep up with the Harleys of the world.

But, who are we kidding? In this market, style is king and the Indian is sculpted with classic shapes, covered in dramatic color choices and dressed in stylish accessories designed to tell the world that what you're riding isn't a Harley.

It's an Indian

And that's all any High School principal could ask.

To see the 2015 Indian lineup, go to the website here.

Plus, there's a review of the 2015 Indian Roadmaster on Motorcycle.com. 

The Thor Vegas RUV. A new kind of Class-A RV- small on size, small on price and BIG on value!

My parents owned their own business for 40 years. My dad, in particular, worked extremely hard to make the business a success. 16 hour days, seven days a week were the norm. He landed clients, serviced accounts and built his reputation until he was the go-to guy in his industry for advice, questions and quality results. Not bad for someone who had to quit high school to help support his family.

Now, 40 years later, my parents are enjoying the fruits of their long days of toil by travelling the USA in an RV. Not just any RV, mind you, but a true land yacht that's 36 feet long, swathed in leather and granite and cost more than my first house (and nearly as much as my 2nd!). Don't ask me about the fuel bill...

That's OK with me because they earned it. But, I've been watching the fun and memories they've been having and it got me and the wife to thinking about making some RV memories of our own. But, with two little ones still in school and their big sister in college, I doubt we'll be procuring the rolling mansion my parents have now. So, I started looking around the internet for something a bit more practical for a middle-class family budget and needs.

We thought about a trailer, but then decided against it because of backing up issues and they seem so, well...flimsy, I guess. Then we looked at Class-C models (the kind with an obvious truck cab up front), but found nothing that seemed to catch our eye.

Finally, we started searching available Class-A models. These are the traditional all-in-one models with the steering and seats as a part of the interior. Nothing seemed right until we stumbled across the Vegas RUV.
Vegas baby!
(Thormotorcoach.com)

Built by Thor Motor Coach, the Vegas and it's sister model, the Axis are far smaller than traditional Class-A motorcoaches. In fact, Thor claims the Vegas is only 5 feet longer than a Chevy Suburban, yet still sleeps 5 in complete comfort. It's because of this size distinction that Thor adds the "RUV" suffix for "Recreational Utility Vehicle".

Regardless of the reason for the marketing department inspired name, the Vegas certainly has a distinctive appearance. It's curved windshield and stacked headlamps separate it from the other rolling boxes on the Class-A scene.

Yet it still comes with equipped with all the comforts of home: flat screen TV, Queen sized bed, shower, solid surface counters and more.
This kitchen is fancier than the one in my house
(Thormotorcoach.com)

And the best part is the price. in the world of RV sales, a new Class-A can easily cost in excess of $175,000 and go far, far higher. The Vegas, on the other hand, can be had for less than $75,000. Don't believe me? Check out this link for proof.

As for our family's RV purchase plans? Spring is looking more likely for our purchase date and the Vegas is #1 on our list.

I'll call my mom and see what she says.

To see the Vegas on the Thor Motor Coach website, click here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The iPhone 6, the iPhone 6+ and the Apple Watch are introduced- The Big News Gets Even Bigger from Apple!

After months of rumors, blurry photo leaks, vague predictions and geeks around the world treating today like Christmas, the announcement of the year finally took place in Cupertino, California this morning: Apple announced all-new iPhones and introduced a whole new product, the Apple Watch...nope, no "i" prefix at all.

The new iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6+ are larger in nearly every way but thickness. The iPhone 6 has a larger 4.7 inch screen, a little bigger in square footage when compared to the "old" iPhone 5S and its now-tiny 4" screen. The iPhone 6+, on the other hand, is positively huge in comparison to the 5S and has entered into the "Phablet" space with a 5.5" screen.
Small, medium and large- From left, the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 with a 4.7" screen
 and the huge iPhone 6+ with a 5.5" screen.
(courtesy: Business Insider)

"So what?" I hear you asking. "It's bigger. How is that a huge deal?"

Well, gentle reader, it's something to notice because Apple literally invented the smartphone and ever since its 2007 introduction has stuck with the 4" screen year after year while competitors from Android and Windows Phone have built far larger products with screens nearly 7" across. It seems that Apple's stubbornness finally gave way to consumer demand for more screen acreage. Current Apple iPhone apps will work just fine on the new models, but as developers produce apps that take advantage of the larger surface, Apple users will experience more content in a larger format.

But, that doesn't mean the iPhone5S or the iPhone5C are history. Per his keynote address, Apple CEO Tim Cooke said both of the smaller phones will continue as part of the Apple iPhone family, but at a much lower price point. In fact, the 8G iPhone 5C is now free with a two-year contract with your favorite carrier.

The cost for the iPhone 6 starts at $199 for the 32 Gig model and increases to $299 for 64G model with the top iPhone 6 at a strong 128G of memory for apps, games music and other content.

The price of admission for the iPhone 6+ begins at $299 for 16G (not nearly enough memory, in my view), $399 for 32 G and a painful $499 for the 128G top o' the line version. $500 for a phone, even one that's under contract with a carrier? With equally sized Android and Windows phones with similar features going for less than two hundred dollars, I'm not sure I'll be able to make that kind of financial leap and to convince my wife that it's worth it too.

Apple also introduced a new service called "Apple Pay" that will be available for the iPhone 6 twins exclusively. With Apple Pay, credit cards are unnecessary. The phones use your credit information and allow you to make purchases at every retail or eating outlet with a common NFC (Near Field Communications) receiver. Apple claims there are 220,000 receiving units in stores now with more being added daily. They also boast of extremely high level security to protect your financial information from unwanted attention. When you're ready to buy, you open the Apple Pay app, place your new iPhone near the receiver and scan your finger across the sensor at the bottom of the phone. That's it. No card, no wallet and no hassle.

Apple's final announcement was made with their traditional "...just one more thing" as the keynote appeared to be drawing to a close. The hand-picked audience ooohed and ahhhed as Tim Cooke introduced the long-rumored "Apple Watch".
Apple thought the "time" was right for a smart-watch. The Apple Watch.
(courtesy: ABCgo)

The Apple Watch is, in many ways, a tiny extension of the iPhone. Coming in two sizes, the Apple Watch is still a thick chunk of metal. Square and shiny, the face can accept dozens of stylish, replaceable watch bands. Besides keeping time to within 50 milliseconds a day, the Apple Watch can send messages, play music, read your heartbeat and act as a remote monitor for your iPhone's camera. The apps are mostly accessed using touch and the stem of the watch as a sort-of mouse controller. The watch requires a connection with your nearby iPhone to employ most of its features beyond telling the time, however.

Apple's video can show it better than I can explain it, so you can go to Apple's homepage to see the video here. 

The new phones will hit the streets in less than two weeks and the watches are due- vaguely- sometime early next year.

Can you wait? Frankly, although the technology is impressive and the live demonstrations looked nice, I still want to see what Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and the other phone manufacturers will do before I go spending up to $500 for what amounts to a slightly larger iPhone 5.

You can also go to the Apple home page to see all the new products, too. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Free Google Chrome Apps- How to Select the Best from Thousands of Choices for Games, Business and Home

Surfing the web (do we still say that?) is fun and easy.

But, there's more to the internet than traveling from website to website. Chances are, you got to this blog by using the Google Chrome browser. Other browsers like Safari (Apple) and Explorer (Microsoft) work just fine, but for sheer popularity around the world, Google Chrome comes out on top.

However, it's time to stop thinking of Chrome as just a way to get from here to there on the interwebs. For some time now, Chrome has offered apps for their browser, just like a smartphone has apps to improve your phone experience.

You can find the Chrome Web Store here. Once you arrive, you'll discover thousands of applications optimized to work within the Chrome browser. Just like a smartphone, you'll find apps for games, education, productivity and the like. Because most people use the Chrome browser on a larger device like a laptop or desktop computer, the apps tend to be specialized for use on a larger screen. You'll see apps for video editing, business presentations, product design, TV watching and much more.
Keep this app away from my wife
(courtesy: Roomstyler.com)

This can be especially helpful if you're seeking some assistance with home remodeling, for example. There are several apps that allow you to create a 3D view of your home. This way, you'll be better able to envision your changes by removing a wall, replacing carpet with hardwood, painting the dining room green, etc. and do it all within the app before you ever pick up a hammer. Roomstyler 3D is one typical app for this kind of project in the Chrome Web Store.

Like I said before though, you can also find popular games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and others. They play just like the phone or tablet versions, but are modified to use your keyboard for control.

The good news is most of the apps are free. However, "free" can be a vague and loose term, with different definitions from developer to developer. Some may give you the whole program for no money at all. Others may provide part of the program, but want you to pay for the rest (for example, an app may allow you to design a business card, but charge you to print it). And still others allow you to download the app for free only, but to use any of it at all, you must pay up first.

So how do you find a great app for you when there are many to choose from? Read and pay attention to the reviews that come with every app. Chrome ranks apps on a five-star system and if you find an app with 173 reviews and an average four-star ranking, that usually means the app is a good one. However, is you see an app with 173 reviews and 1 1/2 stars, you'll probably want to move on to the next selection. Also, be sure to read the reviews, both good and bad, to get an overall feel for the product and it's suitability for you and your needs.

Lastly, in the name of fairness, both Explorer and Safari do have quality app stores that provide the same services as Chrome, so check them out too. If you do, I think you'll enrich your internet experience, discover some new ideas and maybe even play a game or two.

After all, isn't that why we all use the internet super highway (do we still use that term?)?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Four Easy Steps to Look Your Best in a Video Conference

My job often requires me to speak to clients, vendors and others via the internet, using online video services like Skype, Go To Meeting and others that make use of a camera and microphone plugged into the computer so the people on the other side of the meeting can see and hear me clearly. That part is easy. I can just use the built-in camera and mic provided by Apple for my iMac and be done with it.

But my 22+ years in video production simply won't allow it. Oh, it hurts me when I hear a voice echoing like they're standing in an empty bathroom or see the face of a client silhouetted like a mob boss in the witness protection program. Why is this a problem? For some, it isn't. But we use our visual senses to form our perceptions of each other and a a dark, shadowy figure who's hard to hear won't build trust as easily as a sharply focused, well-lit person with the voice clarity of a network announcer.

The good news is, the fix is an easy one, and it doesn't cost a lot of money to fix although you certainly can invest (and I chose that verb on purpose) in equipment to change your first impression from murky to marvelous. Here are a few ideas covering the basics of video conferencing so you can look and sound better every time. Let's cover the low end choices and conclude with higher end selections. Mix and match them to achieve the best effect for you.

Camera

The whole point of videoconferencing is to see each other, after all. The camera that came with your laptop or camera works, but just barely. If you're going to invest in anything, a better camera would be the best choice. Third party cameras have better resolution, sensitivity to light, placement options and can be taken from computer to computer for a consistent picture. 

Almost anything is better than the
factory camera for better video.
(Logitech)


Choices are almost endless and not too bad on the wallet. So, this is a category where quality trumps price when selecting your camera. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is my webcam of choice. For about $68, everything will suddenly be brighter, colors bolder, focus crisper and the overall quality stunning. 

If you buy one thing to improve your video image, make it an external camera. 

Lighting

Good lighting choices can often make the difference between being seen and not seen. Often, all it takes is turning off a switch in one place and turning on a different switch somewhere else.
Who would YOU rather see?
(http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~cynthia/)

The quickest and easiest thing you can do is place a light source somewhere in front of your face. A desk lamp, open window, under-shelf fluorescent or other light source turned on can flood your face with the light required to permit the camera to have as much light as it requires for the best possible image.

Help out the lights in front of you by turning off some or all of the lights above and behind you. The idea is to make the image of you brighter than the background. Experiment with different combinations until you see a look you like. Make a note of what was on and off so you can replicate it when needed.

To better control the light, invest in light specially designed and constructed just for video conferencing:

On the definite high-end, the Videssence Viewme  is especially designed to mount on a computer monitor (or on either side of it with two stands) and provide two-point lighting for the best result possible. At nearly $200, it might be difficult to justify on your expense account, but the excellent results are undeniable.
When appearance matters
more than price.
(Videssence)


Priced in the mid-range, the Webstar II is a circle of LED lights surrounding your external webcam that you mount within the ring. The light also comes with a dimmer to adjust the amount of light required. It uses a USB plug to provide power so it's portable too. It retails for $50.
Simple, easy and not too pricey. Nice.
(Stellar Lighting)

On the lower end, it becomes time to adapt lights that may have been created for a somewhat different purpose, but achieve a good result nonetheless. Here are two choices to consider:


- The Goal Zero Luna LED light mounts into a USB port and illuminates 10 lights across a long, thin bar. It's position is adjustable via an extended snake-like arm that can wrap around objects to keep it secure. You don't have to plug it directly into the computer. You can use a USB extension cord or a battery with a USB port (like the kind that charge cell phones). Not bad for less than $10. 

Look how well lit his face is and it's not
even angled toward his face.
(Goal Zero)
- The Mitaki-Japan 30 LED light doesn't need a USB port at all. It uses 3 D-cell batteries, but will last a very long time as LED lights use battery juice at a miserly level. It's advantage is that each side of the lamp "splits" into two wing-like halves, simulating the two-point lighting of the pricey Videssence. Downsides? It's somewhat tall at 9 1/2 inches and needs a level surface like a shelf or stack of books. It's around $14 at Amazon.

Just level out the "wings" and you're
ready to light 'em up!
(Amazon)
Sound

Nothing is worse to me than hearing that dreaded echo of a poor microphone that came with the camera. Barely audible, it seems the mic was purchased more for its low price than it's quality. Not to worry, because this is an issue that can be solved in seconds. Here are two types of microphone for better sound: 

Fee standing- 

Lots to pick from in this category. One great choice that occupies the higher spectrum is the Blue Yeti. It appears like a classic, old-timey mic you might have seen on Johnny's desk, but the insides are all new-tech. It plugs directly into a USB port and is specially designed to pick up the spoken voice. No more echoes and it's adjustable so you get a "say" into how your voice sounds. For $106, you'll have to spend thousands more to beat the results. 
1950's look, 2015 technology in the Blue Yeti
(Yeti not included)
(Blue Audio)

You can do nearly as well for $36 with the Sampson Go Mic. The quality is unquestioned and it's portable too. With a few less adjustments and smaller size, it is still a huge improvement over the factory supplied mic. 
Sampson Go Mic
(Sampson)

Headphone Mic

This type looks like a receptionist headphone set. Basically, it's a set of headphones with a long plastic arm attached to one side and the mic rests in front of the speaker's mouth. The good news is that the sound is great and you can hear everything just fine. 
A classic never goes out of style.
(Logitech)
The bad news is that you may appear awkward and unnatural. But, if it solves your poor sound quality issue, then it might be the solution you need. The classic product solution is the Logitech ClearChat Comfort. For less than $20, it boasts an in-line mute button and a good reputation for solid performance. 

Tips for a better video/audio result

- Is your LED light too bright and not adjustable? Just get to the grocery store and buy a roll of Glad Cling Wrap. Pull down a few inches worth and press it (stick side down) against the lights. The "foggy" finish of the plastic will reduce and diffuse the light for a softer effect. Don't worry, it won't melt. LED lights produce no heat. If possible, you can also move the light away from you (make sure you still get a good result!).

- Experiment and preview your look. "Skype" yourself with a separate computer. Looking at your image, adjust lighting, camera angles, background clutter, etc. until you see a result you like. 

- Once you've determined light settings, background clutter, audio placement and so on, make a detailed diagram with all the extra notes you need to replicate this look when needed. This will eliminate guesswork and save precious time. 

- Place the camera at eye level or slightly higher (no more than two inches either way). This is normally the most flattering angle and keeps the camera from looking up your nostrils. 

- If possible, keep the microphone out of sight. Although it shouldn't matter, we are all children of television and a visible mic can be a distraction. 

- If practical, rehearse your presentation. Tape meeting notes on either side of of the camera, out of sight of your audience. Keeps notes just that- notes. A word-for-word script might cause you to read it like one and could sound odd or disingenuous.

It seems like a lot to do for a powerful, positive effect, but it really isn't. If you take some simple steps to improve three areas: camera, lighting and audio, you'll be far ahead of 99% of your competition.

And that's not a bad way to look at it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Review- Should Apple Be Worried?

There was a time when no one could touch Apple.

No one.

Not any more. For the past three years, phone makers like Samsung and Nokia have been cranking out models that have creeped up on the iPhone franchise in terms of features, usefulness and design.

Now, with the Samsung Galaxy S4, it appears the iPhone may now be the one playing catch up. With elements the iPhone lacks and some improvements over the S3, the new Galaxy offering is something to behold. With a 5" screen that dwarfs the iPhone's and mimics the Galaxy Note II, the S4 presents a sharp, bright screen with the ability to follow your finger strokes without you having to actually touch the screen!
Lookin' Good, Samsung
(droidlife.com)

Also, the S4 will follow your eye movements and will pause a video when it "sees" that your eyes have looked elsewhere. Does this feature work or is it even needed? Who knows? It seems likely that this will be party trick feature, used to impress iPhone users, but with no real-world utility.

Some quibbles? Well, it's still made entirely of plastic, but it is high quality and nicely finished- plus, it didn't seem to hurt S3 sales any, so why change? Also, the visual design changes made to the case is so subtle, most folks won't notice that you've acquired the la-di-da phone of the moment.

Techradar.com actually got their hands on an early-production model and got the chance to run it through it's paces...they even made a phone call with it. Go to the review by clicking here. 

Should Apple be worried?

Yes. Yes they should.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Microsoft Surface Windows Tablet Review- Does this Microsoft product have the right "touch"?

My brother-in-law is something of a gadget hound. He is the family's go-to computer guy and whenever my college daughter has problems with her laptop at her faraway school, my wife and I often tell her "Call your uncle". 

So, it was no surprise to discover he had recently taken delivery of the newest "it" tablet of the year so far- The Microsoft Surface Pro Windows 8 Pro 128 Gb Tablet. This awkwardly named product is one of the first originating from Seattle since the demise of the barely-known and underrated Zune HD media player- still selling for nearly full price two years after going out of production. 
The Microsoft Surface
(betanews.com)
A kind-of answer to the latest iteration of the iPad, the Surface takes a slightly different tack and uses a full-on version of the new Windows 8 optimized for touch users but with a dual personality . Although MS won't fully admit it, think of the Surface as a small-ish laptop with a removable keyboard. The guts of the tablet have a memory that ranges from 32Gb to 128Gb on a SSD hard drive- no spinning disc means lightning quick access to stored memory plus much of the tablet's content is stored in the cloud anyway. The tablet boasts a full-size-computer-worthy i5 Intel processor, at least 4Gb of cache memory and high quality construction. It looks like pretty much any other tablet- black shiny glass with a keyboard/case cover. 

But how well does it work? One user said,  "I've had multiple downloads going, Netflix streaming HD movies, and MATLAB and Excel running all at once, and I didn't notice any significant lag." 

Also available for download is Microsoft Office 365, a full load software package with Word, Excel, Power Point, etc. that stores almost everything in the cloud. Both my brother-in-law and other user report no issues and great results with this program. I also saw my brother using a video editing program- notoriously taxing on any computer- without a hiccup. Also, because it is a tablet, many- if not all- of the thousands of Window tablet apps are also available for use.

There are two levels of the Surface: the Sufrace Pro and the Surface RT. Pocketnowvideo.com has a video that explains the differences in great detail: 


Low quality audio, high quality review

Is this a replacement for the traditionally powerful desktop computer? No, not yet. Desktops still offer more of everything, including ports for peripherals like cameras, external drives and other options. Plus, there's the convenience of using a 21-27" desk monitor that makes computing easier and less tiring for older eyes like mine. 
Is it a laptop or a tablet? Yes it is.
(display-central.com) 

But, for those seeking out a laptop, the Surface tablets are hard to beat. It can do anything else a good laptop can do, plus it can become a lightweight tablet with heavyweight capabilities. 

But...there's a catch. There had to be, didn't there? The price. Although entry level Surfaces cost no more than a full-sized iPad, the Surface Pro RT climbs north of $1,100. For that money, the Apple MacBook Air becomes a possibility and that complicates things somewhat as the Air is a fine computer on its own with a better, permanently attached keyboard. But for enterprise users committed to the Windows platform or for those used to Windows -based software, there is no argument. The Windows Surface wins, hand down. 

To see Amazon reviews of the Microsoft Surface RT, go here

For the Microsoft corporate website on the Surface, click here

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dude I Want That! The Strangest, Weirdest and Coolest Stuff for the Geek You Love.

Generalizing is a dangerous act- it presupposes common traits among vastly different people and doesn't provide for personality differences, wants or needs.

But, in the geek world, there are a few assumptions one can make in relative safety when speaking about the material wants of that geek-centric world:
  • A state of the art computer or tablet
  • A cool smartphone
  • super-big HD TV
  • gadgets galore
It's the last bullet point on this list that raises the topic of today's post. As a rule, geeks love non-mainstream gadgets. Things that go ping, beep or flash laser lights. Often associated with geek culture icons like Star Wars, Star Trek or comic books, uber-geek nirvana is often strewn with little machines whose intended purpose is not immediately clear. 

The shopping site Dude!!! I Want That! delivers to geeks in one place what they would otherwise spend hours looking for, have no idea where to find it (whatever "it" may be) or had no idea it existed in the first place. 

Want a hover bike? Sure.
Lollipops in the shape of a Star Wars Deathstar? Yup. 
Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit? Right over here...

Presidential Monster Action Figures? They got 'em.
(dudeiwantthat.com)
The items range from the mildly interesting to the downright bizarre. It's obvious the audience for this website is overwhelmingly male as many of the items appeal to the prurient and salacious interests of the predominantly male geek culture. 
This is a "Black Cat" costume. Don't know who that is?
You obviously don't read comic books!
(dudeiwantthat.com)
Not to worry, most of the items are just plain cool to look at. Many items are reasonably priced for what they are and some are waaaay expensive as they are one-offs or super luxurious. 

Think of this site as Amazon.com for geeks. Heck, it's just fun to browse through the offerings and imagine what it would be like to have a jet-powered Batmobile in your driveway. 


Now, if you'll excuse me, the UPS guy is here with my Zombie Head Bowling Ball.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Alternative to the iPod Touch- the Samsung Galaxy Media Player Review

I check my reader stats from time to time and what strikes me as one of the most interesting factoids is that several of my older blog posts always seem to be in the top five for number of hits per month. Time after time, the articles that start with the phrase "An Alternative to..." always seem to be of consistent interest to people seeking out something else, something past the mainstream other don't consider.

If you read the title of today's post, you'll see that I'm no fool (usually) and today's alternative product is a legitimate contender for the title of "iPod alternative". The Samsung Galaxy 4.0 Media Player. It looks just like a standard Samsung smart phone without the phone part and that's pretty much what it is. The Media Player sports a 4" screen, dual cameras and even GPS(!) as well as the Android operating system (but only runs Gingerbread, a three year old OS).
The Samsung Galaxy Media Player
(Samsung.com)

However, the best part is the price. Ipod Touch's can easily run north of  $250 for the 32G model while the Samsung starts at $150 (street price) and can be expanded to as much as 64 gigs by adding a 32 gig micro SD card to the 32 gig version.

So, how does it work? Based on the thousands of reviews posted online, it seems others agree that the player is an ideal "other choice" for those who have had it with the bugs and self-imposed limitations of iTunes. The reviews state the player is easy to use- especially with Google Music- and others also report using the player a type of poor-man's cell phone when paired with Skype (free calling!). There's is also the 100,000+ apps in the Google Play store with games, video players and other applications available to anyone with an Android OS system.

The pros are:

- Decent battery life
- A micro SD slot to expand memory up to 32G
- dual cameras
- uses Flash to play videos
- 100,000+ apps
- good external speakers
- GPS
- Also available in 5" and 5.8" sizes
- Price! Less than $150 online.

Cons:

- Older Android issue OS
- far fewer accessories
- screen not as sharp as iPod (ok, but not great)
- Bland styling
- Plastic construction
- Managing MP3 files not as intuitive as iPod

But nothing says as much as the opinions of others and hundreds of those regarding the Samsung Media Player can be found at Amazon.com by clicking here and at Ebay.com by clicking here.

If my stats are telling me anything, they say consumers are starting to seek out choices beyond the mainstream that deliver just as much satisfaction as the most popular one and if Samsung can update the player with the latest software- at least the Jellybean OS- then Apple better start working overtime with an iPod Touch replacement.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Google Map App for Apple and Android Phones- Find Yourself, for Free!

When I first started in TV news, we went to unfamiliar addresses every day- a fire here, a bank robbery there, ribbon cutting somewhere else. And in the back seat of every station car I ever drove was the same thing: An old, dog-eared map book of the town with the most-used pages missing. So, if we wanted to go to 123 Elm St., we had to regularly refer to the appropriate page again and again.

After 2007 or so, GPS came into affordable use and, as a manager, I saw to it that each news car had one on the dash. But this presented a theft and obsolescence hazard as the units aged and was only a temporary solution. A few years later, we were issued new cell phones (Androids) and it didn't take too long to discover the phones had GPS built in! Now, we could find not only numbered addresses, but simply names was often enough to obtain the correct location of where we needed to be, i.e., "Find Chicago City Hall".  The app came from Google was was imaginatively called "Google Maps"
Simple, clear, easy
(google.com)

Apple thought this was a great idea too and eventually banned the Google Maps App from iTunes and introduced their own version for the iPhone and it failed badly.

Really, really badly.

Users were sent to the wrong location, often to remote locations, far from the intended destination. See one man's story here. And the trouble was not just random. It happened to people all over the world. And no one was happy.

Apple was slow to respond, although they did allow Google Maps back into iTunes and since then, the Google app has been a runaway hit. At no cost, Google maps offers the following features:

  • You can search by voice ("Find Candlestick Park")
  • You can pick either graphical or voice directions or both
  • When you arrive, a street view of your destination pops up, so you can confirm the correct location
  • You can use Google Earth to see a satellite view of your spot
  • Traffic jams are highlighted so you may avoid them
Although most of these features also come with just about any GPS device, let's remember that Google Maps is FREE, not $125-$250. It's also updated reguarly and customizable to your unique needs and preferences. 
When you arrive, you get a photo of what you're
supposed to see outside your car window.
(google.com)
So what's not to like? Well, you must have a cell phone signal to obtain the directional info  and images for the phone (not true of dedicated GPS devices) and the app is something of a battery hog (because of the constant data stream) so I recommend you plug your phone into your car's power supply all of the time- Monoprice.com has inexpensive ones here.  

To see what others think of the app, Edmunds.com has posted an article where they use Google Maps and provide a short opinion piece on it. Click here to see it

To see Google's home page about Google Maps, click here

And don't get lost doing it!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Galaxy S4- What's Next and Why the Name is a Bad Omen.

I don't know much about physics and what little I do know comes from watching "The Big Bang Theory". But, I do understand momentum and for business, momentum can be a powerful thing. For nearly the past decade, Apple has enjoyed that business momentum with the iPhone. For years, nothing the competition put out could touch it for looks, operational simplicity and elegance. It sold like crazy, with lines forming days before the debut of each iteration. But, lately, it seems Apple has slowed somewhat and the competition is even in many ways. In fact, the introduction of the iPhone5 was met with a thundering chorus of "meh". 
Hot or Not?
(technobuffalo.com)
But business, like momentum itself, cannot stand still and Samsung has been gaining on the company from Cupertino with offerings like the Galaxy Note 2, and the Galaxy S3. In fact, Samsung was one of the only cell phone makers to gain market share in the US during 2012. 

The S3 has been out for some time now and has established a reputation as a fast, easy to use Android based phone that many prefer to the iPhone itself. In the tech world, everything ages quickly and soon we can look forward to the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S4. And eerily enough, there is a group of fanboys out there drooling at the idea of this next generation of iPhone competition. In fact, CNET has started a very iPhone-like rumor roundup for the S4 and what it might have to battle the iPhone for smartphone supremacy in 2013. 

Is this leaked photo the next Galaxy S4? 
Some of the rumors include a 5 inch screen, wireless charging and a 13(!) megpixel camera. 

For the latest on the S4, go to CNET's Galaxy S4 Rumor Roundup here

To find out the cultural reason the S4 may not be called the S4, read the Digital Trends post at their site here. 

The momentum is building for Samsung right now and the impending introduction of the S4- rumored to be this April- only means more attention for Samsung, and at Apple's expense. 

However, funny thing about momentum- it can shift direction instantly and Apple is working hard to see that it rolls toward Silicon Valley again ASAP. Competition is a great thing and when it heats up like this, the winners are the consumers like you and me. 

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