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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

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. 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
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. 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.

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.
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!
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 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

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
- Also available in 5" and 5.8" sizes
- Price! Less than $150 online.


- 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 by clicking here and at 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

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.
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- has inexpensive ones here.  

To see what others think of the app, 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?
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. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Best of CES 2013. Electronic Heaven for Gadget Geeks.

I swear, one day I will make the pilgrimage to Las Vegas- not for the casinos, not for the shows and not for the glitz, glamor or gambling.

No, I will make my trip to the desert of southern Nevada for one reason- the massive Consumer Electronics Show. So large only Las Vegas can accommodate the attendees, the CES is the annual presentation of what's new and what's coming to the U.S. in the form of electronics, accessories, computers, phones and more.

Companies of all sizes present the latest in their offerings for the coming year and tens of thousands of attendees flock to the booths to grope, pinch, inspect and otherwise drool over a seemingly unlimited number of products.

Some of the products will be a hit, some will never be seen again and some will be vaporware (constantly promised but never seen on the open market). Newly introduced televisions like the recent 4k advances are very popular. Also,  video games, tablets, cell phones, wrist watches, software and even kitchen ovens premiere here for the gadget-hungry public.
This watch will make people beg you for the time.

The media coverage for this event is also massive. Press from the around the globe descend to have a peep at everything and they report on what they see, like and want. In fact, the show "opens" the week before just to accommodate the press before the real show opens to the general public. The good news is that if you can't make the CES show yourself, there's no shortage of journalists to show you the hottest in... well, everything!
I said everything!
For a great look at some of the best products at the show, and what they think is the future consumer available electronics for the next year. 

And remember, look for me on the floor next year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Ultimate iPhone Case for Protection from Shock, Water...and You. The Lifeproof iPhone case.

Happy Holidays!

You looked under the tree this past Christmas morning and you found that jolly Ol' Saint Nick left you a shiny new iPhone. As you hold it your hands and lovingly caress its delicate back and admire the all-glass screen in front, it slowly dawns on you this wonder of technology will easily and quickly shatter into a pile of expensive, useless circuits if you don't take some protective action with an aftermarket case...and soon.

Oh, dear...a case would have probably prevented this heartache.
Simply finding a case is not the problem. Cases for the iphone are everywhere. But the best protective iphone case just might be the one from a company called Lifeproof.

Aptly named, the people at Lifeproof seem to be a might obsessed with creating iPhone cases that can take a beating, a dunking and a dropping without the phone even noticing (if phones could notice things, that is). The case is made specifically to exceed US military specifications for dust, shock and water durability. In fact, Lifeproof boasts the phone can be used underwater with no issues and tests each case to ensure that no H2O makes it into your expensive new gift.

Proof the Lifeproof case works...or this guy is nuts.
The case itself is quite thin- less than 1/16" is added to the phone and, to my eye, gives the phone a sleek industrial kind of look I find appealing. It comes in a variety of colors and really doesn't appear to be the bank-account saving armor for your phone that it is. The case was originally designed for military, police, fire and other hard-life uses, but since it comes in pink too, I'll assume Lifeproof sees teenage American girls as a rough user (as a father of a teenage American girl, I agree).
I though you deserved to see a Lifeproof case that wasn't wet, dusty or dropped.
Lifeproof also offers accessories for their cases including armbands, a belt clip, power dock adapters and something called "Liferaft". Looking much like its namesake, the Liferaft is just that- a large, orange collar that grips and surrounds the Lifeproof case and allows it to float and be found if dropped out of a boat or off a bridge or something similar. It also adds significant protection to an already strong system. However, the additional bulk is also significant. But for those who really need floating protection, nothing else will do.

Cons? As I read the 2,600+ reviews on Amazon, a few complaints seemed to become routine. Most, however, seem to be because of the necessary design and construction requirements of such a protective system:

- The power port is an extremely tight fit (needed for water tightness) and using anything other than Apple OEM power plugs might be an issue.

- Sound quality from the earpiece can be an issue as some users report slightly reduced ability to hear sound clearly. Some say the sound is not affected.

- The headphone jack uses an easily lost plug that is not attached to the case.

- Installation requires careful attention to the instructions to be performed properly.

- Somewhat expensive (around $50 US)

Other than these issues, most users appreciate the stylish and rugged appearance, ability to walk around worry free and more comfortable knowing the investment they made will be just fine after encounters with rain, tile floors and life.

To see a review of the Lifeproof case, go to Kitup! a military equipment website, where they review the case and the Liferaft too.

For the Amazon reviews, good and bad, go here.

Finally, the Lifeproof website is located here.