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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Motorola Xoom. Finally, a Competitor for iPad? We'll see...

For the past couple of years, the Apple iPad has had the tablet market (which it invented) to itself.

But no more. On the very near horizon, there are dozens and dozens of manufacturers tooling up for their version of the tablet for a piece of the consumer pie and the vast majority of these makers will be using the "Honeycomb" version of the Android opreating system. This is a variation of the same smartphone operating system found on so many cell phones these days. It was especially created for tablets and made available to tablet makers for free.

The Motorola Xoom
(source: Motorola)

Why free? Android is an open source software, meaning that anyone who wants to use it may- at no cost. This can save a tech company hundreds of millions in development costs and allows small companies to play in the same playground as the big boys.

The first player to produce a Honeycomb tablet (all previous Android tablets ran on ver. 2.2, a smartphone-only version scaled up for tablets) hits the market next month and it's called the Motorola Xoom.

 Pronounced "zoom", Mototrola hopes this newest entry will be the first to take away marketshare from Apple and give them a leg up on the competition. Problem is, no one outside of Motorola has had a chance to use one yet, so no reviews are available.

For the latest on the Xoom, click here for information on specs, pricing and availablity and make a decision for yourself if the Xoom makes your heart zoom or fizzles to a pop.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Future of Automotive Tech- Is your Car a Rolling PC?

My first car was a 1979 Chevy Monza with a 231 cubic inch V-6 and no air conditioning. However, it did come with an AM radio. Let's revisit that again- it came with an AM only radio. I had to live with that for about 6 months (ah, teenage impatience) until I could save enough money from my job at Jack-in-the-Box to buy a Craig AM/FM/Cassette with two speakers. And that was the extent of the technology in my car.

Where's the Craig AM/FM radio?

That's no longer the case in today's cars. Now, you can buy new cars with built in computers, intergrated wifi hotspots and voice contolled accessories that recognize 10,000 different phrases. But, even that is not the cutting edge anymore.

I wrote a blog post about a week ago regarding the Consumer Electronics Show with all of the whizbangery for consumers at home. But there's a substantial portion of the show dedicated to auto electronics that make a rolling wifi hotspot seem like my old AM radio. has the scoop on all of the latest news on the best gadgets for the car offered at CES last week. Go here to see the latest tech for your ride.

Oh, remember that Chevy Monza? It caught fire and burned up, but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

iPod Nano watch- Why didn't I think of that?

I have these things I call "million dollar ideas"- they're inventions I think up that (theoretically) will make me a million dollars...someday. The iPod Nano watch should have been one of them. Put simply, this is a wrist strap that securely holds a standard Apple iPod Nano (latest generation only and sold separately) and is worn as a standard wrist watch.

This gives a good indication of size.
(source: Amazon)
It's so simple, it's beautiful. The iPod Nano is small enough to be a slightly large watch face (see my previous post here for the dimensions) and the "watch face" display is one of the standard displays on the Nano anyway, so the execution could not be simpler. The picture pretty much says it all. 

There's several styles, makers and colors of the watch strap available and it makes a great gift for Nano owners or as a great accessory to go with a brand new Nano. The cost seems to be well under $20 for most styles. You can go to Yahoo! Shopping to see a representative selection.

After all, do you know anyone who owns a watch that not only keeps accurate time but holds 2,000 songs as well?

It might be time to get one today.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Seven new gadgets to look forward to in 2011! A quick look.

Here's a quick look-see at seven gadgets we can all enjoy in the coming year.

I can't say they're all cheap or practical, but they're cool to consider and cutting edge products like this provide a peek into the future of tech for the next few years.

Look for the tablet computer market to become white hot in the next 12 months and smartphones are getting more impressive everyday and the videocamera with a built in projector intrigues me to no end.

Click here to see the article from Yahoo!

Wet cell phone? A bowl of rice may be your solution. Maybe.

Ploop! uh oh.

You freeze. A look of horror flashes across your face as you spin around and look into the commode. Your worst fears have been realized: your $200 cell phone fell out of your coat pocket and now resides at the bottom of the procelain convenience, happily burping little bubbles from the side seams.

Uh, oh. How do you fix this?
I won't ask how you got your phone out of the potty, but once it's out, what can you do? Water can fry the delicate interior chips, batteries and memory cards in the phone itself and moisture is not covered by warranties, requiring you to purchase a pricey replacement.

Believe it or not, a bowl of dry rice may be your answer. The know-it-all people at have step by step instructions on this exact method of drying out a wet phone.

From reports I've read, it works as often as it doesn't (I know one person myself who successfuly used this method- much to her relief). But since you may have a dead phone if you do nothing, this is worth a shot in order to save your cell phone and keep hundreds of dollars in your pocket.

Go here so that oh-so-dreaded "ploop" sound isn't the last thing you ever hear from your phone.

*Disclaimer: Although I believe this method to be sound and safe for your electronics, do this at your own risk as a last-ditch effort only.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The latest CES news- wanna, gotta, must have electronics for the future!

The annual CES show is in full swing as I write this- the full name is the Consumer Electronics Show and takes up the majority of the convention space in Las Vegas. It's the show for geeks worldwide who covet and are interested in the future products for the home, gaming, entertainment, autos and just making our live easier and more interesting. This is the cutting edge of consumer electronics about to hit the commercial market and available for purchae soon.

(source: CES)
Many national and international companies premiere their newest and greatest electronic products each year at CES and this year is no different. Hundreds of thousands of attendees roam the convention grounds, seeking out the newest "must-have" gizmo that will be all the rage in the next 12 months.

This year, there's a great emphasis on tablet computing that will compete with Apple's iPad for the consumer dollar. Most of the tablets are based on the Android operating system already in use in smartphones. This particular flavor of Android is specialized for tablet use and will be available for approximately 30-50% less than the iPad.

There's also computer advances, 3D TV without glasses and other wonders.

To see comprehensive coverage of the future click here. has the latest news and analysis of what's coming to a store near you. It's like taking a time machine into the future to see what will be the hottest products for 2011.

Geeks rejoice!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Harbor Freight Tools- tools are gadgets, too...aren't they?

A few years ago, we bought an older home with a kitchen frozen in time. The stove, sink, plumbling, electrical and floor were all 1947 tech. It was long past time for a rehab and after careful planning and holding a funeral for our savings account, we tore into the room, demolishing everything to the bare walls.

Once that was finished, I went to the local home store to acquire the tools necessary to reconstruct the kitchen of our dreams. However, the price of some of the tools were shocking. $400 for a drill? Really? Plus, the price of a reciprocating saw equaled that of a large TV. There had to be somewhere tools were available at a cheaper price. I soon found it just a couple of miles from my home.
(source: HFT)

I went to my local Harbor Freight Tool store and found some of the tools I required to get the job done. For 30%- 70% less than the home store, I was able to get some of the tools (both powered and otherwise) that allowed me to complete the job with a high quality result.

Look- a Harbor Frieght reciprocating saw.
(Source: Harbor Freight Tools)

Few of the tools have name brands anyone would be familiar with- most tools are labled with Harbor Freight's own brand name. The stores aren't what anyone would call fancy, but like most HFT products, they get the job done. Also, the stores have other products for the garden, camping and hobbies.

The catch? The tools are made to a price and sometimes feel like it. I wouldn't buy any of these tools to earn a living, but for occasional use (I bought a reciprocating saw for $20 and have satisfactorily used it about 5 times in 10 years) they're great. There might also be fewer included accessories in the box and a good case may not come with the purchase price.

 My advice would be to invest in high-use, precision tools like table saws, jigsaws, levels, etc., but for occasional use tools like crowbars, impact drivers and the like, Harbor Freight Tools deserve a look. Go here to see what's available and to find out if a brick and mortar store is in your town.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Shaper Image U Video Camera Review- For less than $15 is it worth it?

My wife took a a Christmas job at a local department store to earn some money for the pile of toys our kids expect Santa to bring on Christmas Eve. Along with the job she also got 20% off of anything in the store.

So, Christmas came and went as did most of the products the department store sells. Any remaining items were sold at extreme discounts- 50%, 60% or even 70% and that's where The Sharper Image U Video Camera comes into the (video) picture. Starting at a price of $99 a few weeks before the holiday, my better half managed to find one on clearance near her department for 70% off, plus a coupon, plus her employee discount, etc.. The final tally totaled less than $15 for a brand new video camera! By the way, in preparing for this post, I found the camera for $30-$49 elsewhere online.

In the box was the camera, a velevet-like carry pouch, a wrist lanyard and a cable that plugs into any TV for instant viewing. The camera itself weighs about 4 ounces and is the size of an average cell phone. It's powered by two AAA batteries which are easily replaceable with spares. This may be a better method of keeping constant power as built-in, non-removeable rechargeable batteries often die with no way to recharge until a wall-out let can be found- and this could mean missed memories- gone forever.

Minimal buttons mean minimal hassle.
(Credit: The Sharper Image)

Operation is quite easy. Press the large, red button below the LCD screen for a few seconds and the unit powers up and displays the image in front of the camera on the 2" LCD screen. Pressing the red button again initiates the record function. It's possible to "zoom" by pressing a rocker switch, but the effect is so minor as to be of no use. It's a better idea to simply walk closer to the object of your video and use your legs as a zoom instead.

Holding the U Video in your hand is not too bad- it simply feels like trying to take a photo with a cell phone. Construction quality is merely adequate. All plastic and a bit flimsy in places- but let's remember we're talking about a product that costs less than lunch for two.

We took the camera to record my son's basketball practice. We were indoors and he was approximately 10 feet away while he performed his passing drills. I was initially concerned because the image on the screen appeared really quite dark and I thought the video would be dark too. Once we returned home and I downloaded the video to a computer (quite easy with the unit's built-in USB port) we viewed the result of our work.

Much to our relief, the video was far brighter than it appeared on screen. The video is not of high quality, limited to a resolution (or sharpness) of 640x480. I would equate this to YouTube quality. Ok- but nothing special. The color was a bit washed out and the lighting exposure jumped around some, giving the video a "blinking" sort of effect. Audio quality sounded slightly tinny, but I could make out all sounds clearly.

It's possible to record up to 1 hour of video on 2 gigs of internal memory. After that, you'll have to keep the video on a computer hard drive (which can then be recorded to a DVD for long term storage).

So...the question in front of us is: For under $15, is this camera worth the money? I would say, for that amount, a solid yes. The camera is truly built to a price and feels like it. However, it does deliver on its promise of recording a certain level of video and makes it easy to download and share with family and friends. Plus, my wife now keep the camera in her purse for quick and easy recording of memories.

However, if I bought this camera at the originally listed price of $99, I would have felt like I spent too much for the end result of just OK video with low resolution and low-quality sound and I would have returned it.

But, I didn't pay $99- I paid less than $15 and for that amount, I think the purchase of The Sharper Image U Video camera was money well spent.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Money for your old gadgets- don't sell it, Gazelle it!

So, you got a new gee-whiz gadget for Christmas. What do you do with the old tech that, until two weeks ago, was state of the art? Sure, you could give it to relatives or friends who may or may not appreciate it.


You could make a few bucks on it and pocket the dough for yourself. How? Just gather together all of the electronic widgets you want to give the heave-ho and check out the website here.

Fill out the simple online forms provided by Gazelle and they'll make a cash offer for your unwanted MP3 players, old cell phones and dozens of other orphan electronic gear. As you fill out the age, condition and accessories for your whatever it is, you'll see an easy-to-understand graph that lists the current dollar value of your item that Gazelle is willing to pay.

If you're agreeable to the amount, send the item to Gazelle (they pay postage!) and a check will soon arrive in the mail with your name on it. If, however, Gazelle reviews the item and they decide they have no interest in buying the product, they will offer to responsibly dispose of the product (at no cost to you) or return it exactly as you submitted it. BTW, this is also a great way to raise money for charity.

All in all, this is a no lose senario for those of us with little space to store those old products, a love of money and a desire to take that cash and buy even more technology.