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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Mamba Shift Laptop/Tablet Toter | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

The Mamba Shift Laptop/Tablet Toter | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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Desk Pets | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

Desk Pets | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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iTablet Thumb Keyboard | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

iTablet Thumb Keyboard | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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Geek timepiece: 4-bit Binary Watch | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

Geek timepiece: 4-bit Binary Watch | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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How I turned my iPhone/iPod 4 in to a texting demon with a slideout keyboard | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

How I turned my iPhone/iPod 4 in to a texting demon with a slideout keyboard | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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TV Everywhere with EyeTV Hybrid | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

TV Everywhere with EyeTV Hybrid | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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All-Weather Soft Mount Bike Mount | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life

All-Weather Soft Mount Bike Mount | Tim Hillebrand | iPhone Life:

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

SpiderPodium

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Arachnids refer to eight legged creatures such as spiders, mites, ticks, and scorpions--bugs without antennae. To this list we can now add another species, the SpiderPodium. The SpiderPodium is an eight-legged device that supports small gadgets and can act as a travel dock.

I remember the good old days when every portable digital assistant came with a charging dock as a matter of course, but no more. Hence, you are stuck trying to prop up your device somehow so you can view it while tethered, charging and syncing.

According to Greek mythology, it all started with a woman named Arachne who boasted she could out-weave the goddess Athena. While an excellent weaver, Arachne eventually lost the contest, and Athena turned her into a spider who would spend eternity weaving webs. For this reason, the company that produces this item may wish to change its name from Breffo to Arachne.

What is a Spider Podium exactly? The name actually says it all. This gadget has eight bendable, wire legs coated in heavy plastic radiating from a central rectangular body with a slot in it. The idea is that you can bend the legs to hold any portable device in a viewable, stationary position. You can hold your camera, and it will serve as a tripod so you can include yourself in group pictures. It will hold your MP3 player and allow you to watch videos. It will hold your phone while it charges and syncs to the mother ship.

With a little imagination, you can make the pliable legs grab, support, and suspend any small device securely.

Not coincidentally, the slot in the center body of the Spider is designed to accommodate that pesky, bulky, Apple iPhone/iPod connector. (Why can’t Apple use a standard micro USB connector so you don’t have to take so many cables with you on a trip?) Anyway, when you have the iPhone connector inserted properly, it will hold the device sufficiently so that you don’t have to worry about having the legs hold it. I suppose you would want to secure it with legs on a bike or where there would be some bumping involved.

The really cool part of it that you can use some of the legs for a stand or you can use them for attachments. For instance, suppose you wish to use your phone for GPS navigation in the car, and you don’t want to spend $50 for a window mount. Simply configure the spider to grab on to something in the car such as a visor or a vent. I suppose you could get it to stand up in a drink cup holder as well.

Buy another one (they’re cheap), suspend it from a headrest and let the kids watch videos in the back seat. Use it to mount your phone/GPS to the handle bars of your bike or motorcycle. I even use it in bed to hold my phone so I can read ebooks. When I used it to watch TV or movies, I call it bellyvision. Use it on your bedside table and turn your iPod into a travel clock radio stand. They’re great for video conferencing too.

The functionality of this highly adaptable device is only limited by your imagination. You can use it everywhere. Use it while camping, on an airplane, in bed, on your desk, in the car, on a bus, on a boat, on your bike. It’s highly portable with its 3.5 inch legs.

This ingenious device is a must-have whether on your desk or on the road. Don’t leave home without it. I found them on Amazon.com for as little as $18.95. It’s available in white, black, and gray. There is a larger version called SpiderTablet.

I’m thinking about getting one for my home office, one for the kitchen so I can watch the news while fixing dinner, one for the bedroom to use as an alarm clock/radio stand, one for the family room to I can see my phone screen, one for the car for navigation, and one for my bike. That way I won’t have to remember how to bend the legs for the various functions. I can’t imagine life without at least one of these handy arachnids. Get one, and I promise it won’t bug you. In fact, if this bug bites you, you may become addicted to it.

I consider the Spiderpodium one of my best discoveries at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In fact, this gadget earned its developer a Design and Engineering Innovation award.

Dock it. Hang it. Grip it.

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Let’s Check out the HTC Evo Shift Android 4G

 

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Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound—it’s the new HTC Evo Shift 4G. Are you ready to download at speeds ten times faster than 3G? If so, let’s take a look at the new Evo Shift 4G.

This Android 2.2 phone has a 3.6 inch touch screen, measures 4.625” x 2.375” x .625” and weighs in at 5.75 ounces. Its relative thickness accommodates a lateral, backlit, slideout, QWERTY keyboard that is tactilely pleasing to use.

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Other notable features include a Qualcomm 800 MHz processor 512 MB RAM with 2 GB internal memory. It comes with a 2 GB micro SD card but will accommodate up to 32 GB. The 1500 mAh battery seems to have a reasonable life, but I have not been able to test it thoroughly. HTC Sense user interface enhances social networking, navigation, and customization. There is a 5 MPX camera and camcorder in the rear, but none in the front for HD quality capture and playback. It has proximity, motion, and light sensors. In addition to GPS, it offers stereo Bluetooth and Wi-Fi that will connect up to eight other devices wirelessly.

At the top, you will find the power button and a 3.5 mm jack. The right side and the bottom have no buttons or ports. On the left side, there is a rocker volume control switch. Below that, toward the bottom is the micro USB port for charging and syncing. On the top front is a stereo speaker grill and a status light on the right. At the bottom on the front are four hard buttons with the following functions from left to right: Home, Menu, Back, Search. The Menu button is an added HTC convenience, for other Android devices only have three buttons, and you must access the menu through the home button.

This powerful unit comes fully loaded. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an array of applications included. Even though there are now over 100,000 apps in the Android Market, there is plenty already onboard to keep you busy for a long time. Look at this amazing list of apps that come pre-loaded:

Adobe Reader

Amazon MP3

App Sharing

Calculator

Calendar

Call history

Camcorder

Camera

Car Panel

Clock

Desk Clock

Facebook

Flashlight

FM Radio

Footprints

Friend Stream

Gallery

Gmail

Google Search

HTC Mobile Guide

Internet

Kindle

Latitude

Mail

Maps

Market

Messages

Music

NASCAR

Navigation

News

News and Weather

Peep

People

Phone

Places

Quickoffice

Search People

Settings

Setup

SprintFootball

Sprint Hostpot

Sprint TV

Spring Zone

Stocks

Talk

Teeter

TeleNav GPS Navigation

Videos

Voice Dialer

Voice Recorder

Voice Search

Voicemail

Weather

YouTube

To tell the truth, I’m a little disappointed in the camera as it is only 5 MPX. The quality is not as good as other phone cameras I have seen lately. It seems to lack sharpness and clarity. At 5 MPX, it is toward the low end of the scale these days compared to many phones with 8 MPX. It would be nice if it had a dual LED flash and a front facing camera as well for video conferencing, bumping, and a little FaceTime.

At 3.6 inches, the screen is on the small side, but perfectly clear with a nice picture. I might have trouble deciding on whether to settle for this format or a larger one of say 4.3 inches.

I like the feel of the slideout keyboard. Each key is clearly defined and helps in making fewer typing errors. However, I personally do not like the horizontal keyboard and rarely use it. First of all, it automatically makes the machine thicker. It is cumbersome to slide out the keyboard, and you must use two hands to hold it and type. I much prefer an on-screen keyboard that pops up when you need it and disappears when you are done. Of course, with the slideout keyboard you must type everything in the landscape view. One of the great Android typing innovations is Swype, which I thought came pre-installed in all Android phones, but not this one, which is a shame. I suppose for many folks the slideout keyboard is an absolute deal maker though.

I have no complaints about Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. They both worked exactly as they should and connected quickly. Sometimes I have trouble connecting Bluetooth with various peripherals, but not on this unit, and that’s a big plus in my book. My only regret is that I was unable to test the power of 4G, as it doesn’t exist in my area, and I loathed the idea of going to New York City to try it out. So, make sure that you have a 4G signal in your area so you can take full advantage of this capability. I can’t wait to experience the power of 4G, which can be up to 10 times faster than 3G.

The Navigation program and Google Maps worked superbly so that it’s not necessary to acquire any third party software. It has audio, turn by turn navigation and reroutes quickly if you take a wrong turn. I really enjoy switching to satellite mode and watching the actual countryside go by as I drive and the seeing the actual buildings in town. It’s kinda cool to pull up in front of somebody’s house and show them a picture of the house. Of course, to use the Evo for navigation in your car, you should be prepared to purchase some kind of mount and a charger, which could set you back another fifty bucks or so.

In the final analysis, I found the HTC Shift Evo 4g to be a perfectly acceptable device with satisfactory functionality. However, if I were in the Sprint store, I would definitely put my money on the HTC Evo because of the larger 4.3” screen, front and rear 8 MPX camera with dual flash. While 4G is certainly an incredible phenomenon, it is still extremely limited in its distribution. If you live in a 4G market, you will certainly want to consider the Evo Shift.

Keep connected!

Monday, January 24, 2011

SanDisk: Adventures in Memory

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There are certainly lots of choices out there when it comes to memory media, but somehow SanDisk has always been my favorite. Over the years, I have amassed a small mound of SanDisk memory cards starting with the big CF cards, progressing to the standard SD card and then to the Micro and Mini SD cards and adapters. Let’s not forget the SanDisk flash drives that are also increasing in capacity.

It’s difficult to believe how much storage is available on a tiny micro SD card these days. It amuses me to think of all the old 3.5 inch floppies I had to shuffle in and out of the drive to accommodate a single document on a 1.44 MB disk. Can you imagine how many of those disks it took to back up files? Times have certainly changed.

I can hardly believe it, but SanDisk now has a 128 GB memory card created mostly for accommodating videos and photographs, which require a large amount of space. I can remember my first 1 GB hard drive. I paid $1400 for it and thought I would never run out of room. Ha!

The new 238 GB Extreme Pro compact flash card is a photographer’s dream come true with oodles of storage and rapid performance. Write speeds go up to 100 GB/s. It features Video Performance Guarantee for full HD quality.

In its never ending quest to improve and expand memory applications, SanDisk has some other new tricks up its sleeve. For instance, its new Secure Access software. This software protects your videos, photos, music, and data files in a private vault on your USB drive. You can drag and drop files into the secure vault online with 128 bit AES encryption for security. Your files are securely stored online up to 2 GB by Dmailer technology.

Even if your flash drive is lost or stolen, your files are still secure. Secure Access is available on SanDisk Ultra, Cruzer, Cruzer Slive, Cruzer Edge, and Cruzer Blade.

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The new SanDisk Ultra USB flash drive will transfer files at speeds up to 15 MB/s. It comes in capacities of 8, 16, and 32 GB. It features password protection and encryption as well as up to 2 GB of free online backup.

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Over the years, I have seen SanDisk’s MP3 players evolve. My MP3 player of choice now is the Sansa Fuze, which comes in 4, 8, and 16 GB capacities. Of course it has a micro SD card expansion slot so that the memory is really infinite. This device also plays, pauses, and records FM radio with scanning and presets for your favorite stations. It is also an audio recorder with a built in microphone for notes, music, lectures, etc.

Of course you can also enjoy videos, photo slide shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. You can even download free, unabridged audiobooks from most local libraries these days. Every night while I cook dinner I listen to the news on my Fuze that I have connected to an external speaker system for greater listening pleasure. When I’m on the road I enjoy hooking it up to my car speaker system and hearing my favorite tunes or an audiobook.

I also use it as a brag book and have pix of my grandkids in it to show anyone I can corner. It’s super bright 2.4” screen is perfect for photos and videos.

It can handle the following formats

Audio: MP3, WMA, Secure WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WAV Audible, Podcasts

Photos: JPEG, MBP, TIFF, GIF, PNG

Video: H264, MPEG-4, WMV, Flip Video

Let’s not forget to mention the diminutive Sansa Clip MP3 player and the USB MobileMate Micro Readers for transferring data between a PC and a phone, camera, or MP3 player.

In the box, you get the MP3 player, ear bugs, micro-USB 2.0 cable, Quick Start Guide, and Rhapsody Software for music downloads and transfers.

If you don’t want to bother with downloads and creating libraries, you can pop in a slotRadio card that hold 1000 handcrafted songs on a playlist tailored to your taste, which is available from slotRadio.com.

The rechargeable battery lasts up to 24 hours for audio playback and up to 5 hours for video playback.

Another SanDisk innovation is its new Xbox 360 USB flash drive. Just plug it into your Xbox to save games, profiles, map packs, music, pictures, and videos and then take it with you on the road. It comes preconfigured for Xbox so that there is no setup required. It comes in 8 and 16 GB capacities.

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SanDisk stands ready to help you expand and preserve your memory in a wide range of devices with its SDHC memory cards with capacities up to 32 GB and a wide range of other memory media designed for just about every digital device imaginable. The preservation of memory at an affordable price is a noble cause indeed. Two thumbs up for SanDisk.

HTC Introduces New 4G Phones

At CES, I always make it a point to visit the HTC booth on my first day to see what they are up to because I have long considered this company to be the leader in smartphone innovation. I have several old HTC phones that were way ahead of their time. I can remember when they used to make nothing but unlocked phones when they were in search of a carrier. Now I imagine they can pick and choose whatever carrier they wish for HTC has more than proven itself to be on the cutting edge of handset quality and innovation.

HTC has already launched the first 4G phone in 2008 and the first Android 4G phone in 2010. At CES, HTC announced the introduction of 3 more 4G phones.

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The Thunderbolt with Verizon is will spearhead Verizon’s venture into the 4G market. It will have Skype connectivity so the users may connect through voice and video taking advantage of its large 4.3 inch screen and front and rear cameras. The Qualcomm chipset will allow seamless switching between 3G and 4G networks. Thunderbolt will also have built-in GPS, digital compass, G-sensor, proximity sensor, and light sensor. It features a pull out stand, which is a handy feature I appreciate.

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HTC has also partnered with AT&T to offer its Inspire 4G with the HSPA+ network. The phone will take advantage of THC’s Sense enabling users to find lost phones and wipe out data if necessary. It will have an 8 MPX camera with Dolby and SRA surround sound, active noise cancellation. The classy body design is machined from a single block of aluminum. This will also be an Android 2.2 phone. It will have a single 8 MPX autofocus camera with a dual LED flash. DLNA will be built-n for home networking. The screen size is 3.6 inches. The HTC Inspire 4G will be available in the first quarter of 2011.

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The new HTC Freesyle is built on a seek aluminum unibody with a 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen and HTC onboard. It offers a FriendStream social network interface, FM radio, proximity sensor, and GPS. This phone runs on the Brew OS. I do not have any experience with the Brew system yet, so reserve comment other than to muse whether we need yet another operating system.

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The HTC EVO Shift 4G is another Android phone with HTC sense and a slideout QWERTY keyboard. Used as a modem, the phone will connect up to 8 other devices in a network. It has a 3.6 inch WVGA touch screen display with digital compass, g-sensor, proximity sensor, light sensor, and GPS. There is a 5 MPX camera with flash. It is sponsored by Sprint.

There are two other HTC 4G phones available. One is myTouch 4G running on Android 2.2 with a 5 MPX camera and a popout QWERTY keyboard. The other is the T-Mobile G2 Android phone with a front and rear camera for video chat.

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The first 4G phone on the market was the HTC EVO 4G, which is still available running on Android 2.2 with HTC Sense, HD video capture and a 8 MPX camera. It features a built in kickstand for hands free viewing.

Clearly, HTC leads the way in mobile phone technology and has more 4G phones than any other manufacturer, most of which are in the Android platform. If I were forced to pick a favorite with a gun to my head, I would quickly select the Thunderbolt with Verizon because of its rich set of features, not the least of which is the front and rear camera arrangement for video chats.

TidySongs Will Clean Your Music Library

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We all probably have a flawed music library missing album covers, mislabeled songs, albums in the wrong categories, and artists missing or misspelled. We’ve probably vowed to fix as a rainy day project, but at the list of errors grows the task becomes more daunting and never gets done.

Enter TidySongs, a marvelous little application that you can buy at a retail store on a thumb drive for $39.95 or download it online. It will fix all the errors and omissions in your music library in a jiffy. So, if order , errors, and organization are important to you, this was send from heaven for it works fast, is user friendly, and puts your music house in order.

Not only does it fix misspelled song details, fill in missing artists, with years and genres, it also adds missing album artwork and removes duplicate songs.

It only works with iTunes, however. But it does work on both PCs and Macs. It’s all automatic; no typing required. Sweet.

While it’s push button simple, it also gives you complete control to retag genres and more. You can tell it what you want it to do or not to do.

So, if your music library is a mess and needs some housekeeping, you should put TidySongs to work for you. It costs $39.95 and you can get it at www.tidysong.com.

HTC HD7 Windows 7 Phone Review

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Overview and Description

This HTC Windows Phone 7 is sleek and attractive with a black frame and gray body. It weighs 5.71 oz and measures 4.80 x 2.68 x .44 inches.

On the back, there is a little leg that folds out from the camera lens area to make a handy stand in the horizontal position. The stand surrounds the 5 MPX camera lens, dual flash, and rear speaker grill. At the top of the unit, there is a power switch. On the left side are two volume control buttons and lower down a camera button. On the bottom, is a micro USB port, a 3.5 mm audio output jack, and a microphone. On the front of the unit, there is a battery status light, above a 4.3 inch capacitive touch screen. Below the screen are three hardware buttons for Back, Start, and Search. There are two more speaker grills located at the top and bottom of the screen.

It is powered by a 1000 MHz processor with 576 MB RAM and 512 MB ROM on board. The build-in memory is 16348, but there is no storage expansion slot. It also has a T-Mobile SIMM card. The 1230 mAh battery has a 6.33 hour talk time with 310 hours standby. With a 3G connection, the talk time goes down to 5.33 hours. This phone operates on a 3G T-Mobile network.

Multi media support includes a music player supporting MP3, WMA, M4A, and M4B with a video camera and playback supporting MPEG4, WMV, 3GP, and 3G2. It also has an FM radio.

Internet browsing is available with HTML but Flash is not available for a full Web browsing experience. A Facebook application is built-in. Caller groups are supported with multiple phone numbers per contact. You may search by first or last name, It has picture ID, ring ID, and voice dialing. It also comes with a calendar, alarms, todo/tasks lists, document viewer, flashlight, calculator, and converter. You can do SMS, MMS, and it supports various email accounts. My Gmail contacts were imported automatically and were appeared before I knew it. This phone features Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi 802.11b,802.11g, and 802.11n. It also has an accelerometer and a compass.

What a pleasure to have a Microsoft phone that has office applications already installed for no extra charge, which, in this case, include Onenote, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Sharepoint. You can view, edit, and create documents in any of these formats and share them or collaborate with others.

However, I have to shake my head in disbelief. There is no way to copy, cut, and paste from one document to another with this operating system. I thought that the iPhone was a big joke because it couldn’t do that either for three generations or so. Why would Microsoft leave out this fundamental utility to make its applications work they way there were meant to work? Why didn’t Microsoft learn from Apple’s mistakes? It’s beyond me.

While we are at it, this system does not have the ability to capture screen shots either. Nor can it place a copy of the handheld screen on a desktop monitor for interactive data transfer between devices with a mouse and keyboard. These are all things Windows Mobile was able to do for years. It seems we’re going backwards here.

A nice feature of Windows 7 phones is the Hub concept in which you can place related items as icons in a single button on the home screen. Just scroll down if you run out of viewing space. On the home screen there is an arrow that you can tap or flick right, and it will roll to a screen containing all of your installed programs through which you may scroll vertically to select.

While the phone comes equipped with built-in GPS, the navigation program it offers actually costs $2.99 a month to use. That bugs me. The map program seems lame and takes forever to respond. There is no voice-turn-by-turn navigation, and the map is blurry. Google maps is far better, but not available on this machine.

All the incredible Google apps are free downloads in the Android store, but none of them exist for this phone. You will be missing out on such familiar apps as maps, gmail, docs, earth, goggles, talk, voice, reader, books, notebook, and so many others, especially developments from the labs. At least there is YouTube and you can get Picasa online, but again, it takes forever. I guess that may be one advantage of Google owning the apps and the Android system.

I found the screen to be bright and crisp. The scrolling was smooth and responsive. Programs that are stored on the device seemed to pop up in short order without delay. However, if a program must access the Internet to invoke, it can take for bloody ever. This is definitely a consistent negative feature of this phone. It would benefit immensely from a faster network connection.

In the Box

This phone comes packaged in a small box into which is tightly packed a micro USB charger cable, a 110v AC adapter, and a stereo headset. There is a small, printed manual, and some other informational material.

Getting Started

When I first took the unit out of the box, I couldn’t get it to turn on. Was there no battery installed? I couldn’t find a battery in the box. So, I opened the back cover and found a plastic insulator that must be removed for the battery to make contact.

When you plug in the micro USB connector to a computer, a box pops up notifying you that you need to get Zune software so that you can get updates, find apps, sync music, pix, and videos. What about files guys? Is this just another iPod touch with Zune instead of iTunes?

You can sign in with existing MSN or Hotmail account or get a new one. You are given the opportunity to become part of the Zune Social networking group. Now you can share everything you’re doing with your friends and who knows who else. You must create a Zune tag for the forums etc.

Now you can get a 14 day Zune pass to try out the services. After that, it’s $14.99 per month, $44.97 for three months, or $149.90 per year. You get unlimited access to download as many songs as you like and last as long as you are a paid subscriber. You can keep 10 or your favorite songs each month forever. Frankly, this plan does not appeal to me in any of its forms.

Now you can download the Zune software and plug your phone back into the computer. The Zune software allows you to sync your stuff back and forth between computer and phone. Zune offers free channels to subscribers for creating and updating playlists. This is also where you find the apps for Windows Phone 7.

Apps

I have been very curious about the quality and quantity of apps available for this very new platform and suspected that it must be sparse. The first thing I noticed, which isn’t surprising I suppose, is several apps for Xbox. Then there’s a list of top ten paid apps, which are all games. Going over to the free apps column, I see that there are some more serious apps there such as YouTube, Facebook, Adobe Reader, Amazon Kindle, Weather Channel, and Shazam, but the rest are games. How many apps are available anyway?

Like Apple, you have to sign in with a password to download apps. But unlike Apple, you only have to do it once, which I appreciate. Apple’s system is a bother. Of course with Android you don’t have to sign in at all.

Microsoft has probably exerted a valiant effort to have a variety of useful and entertaining apps available for their new phone platform. Recognizing that it is a brand new arena and that it will take time to mature and develop a larger corpus of applications, it is probably not fair to observe that the app store shelves seemed stripped bare with relatively few choices. Another observation is that there are surprisingly few free apps. When you visit the app store, you better have some jingle in your jeans. There no such thing as a free trial either. Some apps that are free in Android and iTunes stores cost money in the Microsoft market. Why would that be?

Traditionally, I suppose that Microsoft Windows Mobile users are accustomed to paying extremely high prices for software programs. Typically a program would cost from $15 to $30 and often more. But these applications were of high quality and worked seamlessly. So, if you are after quality instead of quality, maybe that is what is being delivered. But it would be good to have more choices, free trials, and more reasonable prices. Maybe the market will smooth all this out in time.

I was surprised that few of the developers with whom I have worked for years on the Windows Mobile platform have applications in the Windows 7 app store. Maybe it’s too early? Maybe the market is still too small to interest them? I hope they will soon appear however, because they are what made the Windows Mobile system so robust.

When you search the app store a strange thing happens. If there are no relevant apps to satisfy your search it doesn’t want to disappoint you so it brings up a bunch of music and Websites that may be relevant to your search query. Weird.

Jumping through hoops

Eager to put the new Windows Phone 7 through its paces, I loaded it up with some apps so that I could play games, watch TV, listen to music, create and edit documents, send email, sms, mms, photos and videos. In performing all of these tasks, the machine performed as expected. I particularly enjoyed the voice command feature. My only reservation would be that it seemed sluggish on the Web many times, and I don’t think it was my connection.

I appreciated the large screen and its clarity The smoothness of navigation when scrolling is perhaps even better than Android phones. I like its sleek look and how it nestles in your hand and wants to be yours. I like the fold out kick stand. I appreciate the integration of Microsoft office programs, which makes it a real productivity tool. I applaud the fact that Netflix comes already installed and works beautifully, but why not Hulu, Pandora, and other streaming apps? I like the fact that you can sync files between computers and the Windows 7 phone wirelessly.

A note on syncing

The Windows Phone 7 does a superb job syncing Music, Videos, Pictures and Podcasts, which makes it a super MP3 player. But when it comes to perhaps more important things like data, it falls far short of the old Windows Mobile sync interface. Remember how you could check boxes on what you wanted to sync such as notes, calendar, contacts, and files? Now you have to go through Windows Live online and it’s a precarious process. I could not drag and drop files either. We’re going backwards here folks. I could not even get the phone to come up as a drive on my desktop directory so that I could address it and exchange files manually.

Conclusion

What I find lacking and hope will soon be corrected are some glaring oversights, some cannot be avoided problems, and I have a wish list of missing features.

The biggest deal breaker for me is the unit’s lack of ability to copy/cut/paste. I just do not understand this omission. Of course, you will have to live with the paucity of apps, but I expect this to be remedied with time. I wish the apps were more reasonably priced and that there were more free ones. It’s too bad that none of the Google apps are available for this phone. I wish the camera had higher resolution as it is on the low end of the spectrum these days. Another deal breaker is that it doesn’t have a front and rear camera for video conferencing. I don’t like the navigation system and resent having to pay $2.99 a month for the one offered. This system does not support Flash for full Web browsing capability. The whole syncing process needs to be revisited, improved, and perhaps restored to Windows Mobile 6.5 functionality.

“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

I have long awaited Microsoft’s return to the smartphone market as it seemed to be laying fallow for the past three or four years. While I applaud the Windows Phone 7 and consider it to be a worthy competitor for all its functionality, I am in the end disappointed. I do not see that it is substantially better than iPhone or Android. Somehow I expected it would be. If fact, I must say that in many respects it seems to be a step backward when you compare all the things a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone can do.

If you are an early adapter to the latest technology, you may wish to purchase one of these units and ride the wave as the improvements roll out and the apps become more plentiful. However, I think I would wait until it matures, works out some kinks, adds functionality and far more applications.

As usual, I think HTC has created a superb product that is appealing and functional. I only lament that the Windows 7 system it houses is not more robust and highly developed.

Viva Verizon

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One of the most impressive bigger than life presences at the Consumer Electronics Show this year was Verizon. It started in the press rooms and blogger lounges, continued with free delicious lunches every day, extended to a meaningful keynote speech by Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, and was further demonstrated in a behemoth booth in the South Hall of the Convention Center.

To get to the press room, you had to run a gauntlet of Verizon staff who were eager to tell you all about and demonstrate Verizon innovations. I was glad that I took the time to get acquainted with some of Verizon’s new technology, and I want to share it with you too.

Of course I was already keenly aware of and am eagerly awaiting the dissemination of Verizon’s new 4G network. Of course I will have to acquire a new Android 4G phone to take advantage of it, which is a downer for people who have recently acquired a new 3G phone—no firmware upgrades will be possible. L.

Seidenberg emphasized in his address the importance of faster and more commodious broadband as the key to connectivity and technological expansion. Hence the deployment of a 4G LTE based cellular network that will be 10 times faster than the current 3G standard.

In fact, Verizon’s 4G LTE network will be the fastest in America with speeds of 5-12 mbps. You can download a song in 4 seconds, 20 photos in a minute, a 10 MB presentation in 10 seconds, a TV show in 5 minutes, or an entire movie in about 20 minutes.

Another exciting development from Verizon I was glad to learn about is the new FiOS network with Flex View. Unfortunately, FiOS will only be available in select markets at first, but will eventually cover the entire country. It will offer an alternative method of acquiring television entertainment and give cable and satellite networks some much needed competition. Hopefully the consumer will benefit from lower pricing spawned by competition.

The FiOS network features Flex View, and that’s the exciting part. With Flex View, subscribers will be able to stream live or recorded content to mobile phones, laptops, and desktops. Signals may be shared among up to 5 devices simultaneously. It means you can enjoy the same entertainment in your living room or on the road. It means you can control your DVR remotely to view, record, or watch whatever you wish, whenever you wish, from wherever you wish.

Subscribers will have 70 GB of storage with each account. You can use this space for all your content including your own pictures and videos for viewing wherever and whenever you wish with Flex View.

Home Control is another feature bundled with FiOS. It allows you to monitor your home security system remotely with cameras, burglar and fire alarm systems, door locks, energy management, door locks, lights, thermostat, and more.

Also available is Umi by Cisco in conjunction with FiOS. Umi allows for teleconferencing and is designed to get families together as if they were all in the same living room at the same time over live video on your HDTV. Vidoes can be recorded and shared on YouTube, Facebook or email.

FiOS will have an On Demand feature as well. On Demand allows you to view first run movies on a pay per view basis. You can also watch a host of free movies and content on major networks and cable networks such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz. The glory is that the programs are already recorded so that you don’t even have to worry about programming them on your DVR.

Thank you Verizon for your pioneering, innovative efforts and results. I just hope you hurry to my neighborhood. I am looking forward to being an early subscriber to FiOS and taking advantage of 4G, Home Control, Flex View, and Umi. Thank you Verizon for all the delicious free lunches at CES and a comfortable place to sit to get a little work done with a WiFi connection.

I suppose another big news item than cannot be ignored is that iPhone will now be available on Verizon. Too bad iPhones can’t handle 4G, which as far as I’m concerned is just another reason to get an Android phone. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out with iPhone on Verizon. I know a lot of iPhone developers who are eager for the new customers it will represent.

At CES, Verizon unveiled 10, count them, TEN, new 4G Android phones such as the LG Revolution, HTC Thunderbolt, Motorola Droid Bionic and a Samsung Smartphone. In addition, there will be several new Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom. HP will offer Pavillion and Compaq notebooks for 4G consumption.

In my estimation, Verizon characterizes the most important theme of CES, which was innovation with convergence through cooperative efforts with other entities to bring beneficial results in advancing technology to improve our lives.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CES 2011: Impressions and Convergence

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If you’ve never been to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it’s an unimaginable extravaganza teeming with hordes of people streaming through the venues attempting to absorb all the latest technology on display. The super stars in the consumer electronics industry such as Microsoft, Samsung. Toshiba, Panasonic, Casio, HP, and more are all computing for your attention with blaring music, flashing lights, uniformed employees, dancing girls, live stage performances, robots, game booths, scads of HD and 3D TVs, and other gimmicks. It’s a total assault on the senses. Perhaps the most soothing was Microsoft whose entire exhibit area was bathed in blue light for a much appreciated nerve-calming effect. Purportedly there were over 130,000 attendees this year, which is a lot of humanity in any one place. That’s ten times more people than live in my entire town.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Android logs 300,000 registrations a day

 

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The buzz on the Net is that Android is now registering 300,000 new users per day. That’s 2.1 million a week and 9 million a month. What an incredible growth and demonstration of popularity and support.

This should give the fruity competition something to ponder.

If I were an IOS developer, I would certainly think about expanding my horizons to Android. It’s a serious market.

If I were looking for a new phone, I’d certainly give the Android platform my focused attention.

If I were an advertiser, I would want to make my products and services known to targeted Android users.

Twidroyd v4.2 with new functionality

If you are addicted to Tweeting and Twittering, you can do it in style on your Droid with Twidroyd. Twidroyd allows you to use their tools and templates to create your own background or customize your own and share it with others.

Of course you can read and send Tweets through Twidroyd as well. It a full featured client that also includes postings, mentions, DMs with threaded view, integrated search, list viewing, URL shortening, geo-location support, multi-language interface, and background modifications. Bit.ly is integrated into this app for automatically shortening URLs. Plixi let you embed photos in tweets. Cool

An interesting new feature in v4.2 is “Mute.” It allows you to turn off tweets from anyone for a specified period of time. And then you can send a notification tweet that the individual has been muted. How humiliating.

When you go to landscape mode in Twidroyd it opens with LivePreview, which displays linked Webpages and media with tweets so that you don’t need to open a browser. It’s a more efficient way to read tweets.

There are three ways to acquire Twidroyd. Go to the android markt or Motorola store in the application menu. Search for “twidroyd,” and select either the free or Pro version. Install it, and you’re in business. Using your barcode scanner, scan this code and choose your version.

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Or, you can text TWIDROYD to 95997 to receive the download link.

As far as I can tell, about the only difference between the free and the Pro version is that you don’t have to suffer pesky ads in the Pro version. Pro costs $3.99.

I’d say if you are a tweeter, you will probably want to install this app on your Droid.

Follow me @tshphd on Twitter. J

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who’s gonna have the fastest network?

Verizon. That’s who. When Verizon’s new 4G LTE network is unleashed at the end of the year, it will deliver data ten times faster than 3G networks. That’s blazing.

4G will only be available in 38 major markets in the beginning. It will take a while to get to the boonies where I live, but it will be nice to have when I travel. It will also be available in some major airports.

Current 3G handsets are incapable of receiving 4G. There will no doubt be a rush to get new 4G capable handsets to market by manufacturers. I understand that there will be a half dozen or so units available to view at the Consumer Electronics Show, and I’m eager to see them.

I wonder about people who invested in a 3G unit. Will Verizon allow them to upgrade without penalty. I wonder too if iPhone and Verizon will finally get together as rumored.

Well, I guess with any new technology, there are always growing pains. In this case, I think it will be worth the effort. Way to go Verizon!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Droid X: Road Warrior

When I go on an extended road trip, I like to take everything with me I need to be productive on the road without having to lug a lunky laptop. On a recent month long trip, I decided to use a Droid X as my mobile office to keep me productive and connected. I found it to be a super companion. It helped me process data, write, publish, communicate via email, sms, mms, and IM. It guided me and gave me valuable information along the way that made my trip more enjoyable. It also entertained me with music, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and TV.

Getting Organized

Even before packing for a trip, I think it’s always a good idea to create some lists: things to do before leaving home, things to pack, places to be visited, and electronic items needed, including apps. If you look in the Android Store, there are many, many list apps. Some are better than others. My favorite has always been ListPro, but unfortunately, it’s not yet available. I hope it will be soon.

Among the many choices that I evaluated, I finally decided on the Springpad app, which is free. In my opinion, it’s the best available, even among the paid apps because of its robust features. It automatically creates a copy of all your lists, task, memos, and links that are stored on the Springpadit.com Website that is always available from any computer or handheld anywhere. It allows you to make notes, and check lists in various categories such as business, restaurant, wine, products, books, movies, tasks, music albums, shopping, packing, and recipes.

You can also add photos, webpages, emails, or snippets of text with hyperlinks and then send them via email or SMS. You can add media by taking a photo, scanning a product, using an existing photo, or making an audio recording. The latter is a great feature while on the road.

However, it has one serious shortcoming that I hope will be remedied soon: it will not allow you to sort items within a list, but strangely it sorts lists. Go figure. Accordingly, for large lists, you may wish to find another application that will sort items internally. For just my shopping list, I chose a Shopping List for this purpose. It does the job, but does not allow imports/exports or additions by voice.

Here is another good reason to have a packing list. When I was in Albuquerque, my car was broken into and a couple thousand dollars worth of items were taken. During the shock of the moment, it was difficult to remember what was missing for the police report. My list helped immensely. Albuquerque is an evil place…stay away.

Another important item to take along is some kind of secure electronic wallet. My favorite has been eWallet for many years. Luckily, it’s now available for Android. It syncs with your desktop data so you have a backup copy. This program has saved my life more than once. When I got my credit cards stolen, I was able to contact the companies, cancel them, and get new ones in no time, thanks to eWallet. It’s a free app that could save your bacon.

As long as we’re talking about security and lost items, I highly recommend installing a copy of Where’s My Droid in case you lose or misplace your device. This remarkable app allows you to send a text message to your lost device. You can either cause it to turn up the volume and ring for a set time or it will return a text message with its latitude and longitude (provided GPS is turned on).

Navigation and Guidance

During the first half of the trip I used my trusty Mio dashmounted GPS, but I was relieved of it in Albuquerque. Droid X came to the rescue. I used the built in Navigation program with Google maps and enjoyed the amazing 3D satellite pictures that show you actual photos of the landscape as you travel, including actual buildings. With this program, a window mount, you don’t need anything else to guide you on a road trip.

Navigating and communicating hands free is a good idea while on the road. For this reason, I tried out some apps to help me. I guess my favorite was already installed on my Droid X. It’s called Car Home. Large buttons on the home screen are for Navigation, Voice Search, Contact Search, and Maps. But, you can install other apps of your choice as well. There is an additional screen with six large buttons on either side of the home screen where you can place apps of your choice to access easily while driving.

At the top of the home screen, in large red display, are a speedometer, a digital compass, and a weather report, which never worked for me.

A similar application is Car Dock available for free in the Store. The home screen appears with six buttons for Calling, My Location, Music, Add App, Voice Search, and Close.

After I was relieved of my Window mounted GPS in the robbery, I reverted to my Droid X using the built in Navigation system with Google. It performed flawlessly, rerouted quickly, gave voice guidance, and the 3D photo background is amazing. As far as I know, no other application has this feature. Go Google.

I was delighted to find out that one of my longstanding favorites, CoPilot Live, is now available for Android. I couldn’t resist getting a copy. It is a real asset to road travel with all the features one would expect. However, it doesn’t have the nifty satellite photo background offered by Google, and it does not have a panel with such information as time of arrival, distance to go, and so forth. You can view this information, but it takes some tapping to access, which isn’t too cool while driving.

Travel Information

In most places along the way, it was possible to connect to the Web to search for information on sightseeing, history, geology, restaurants, accommodations, and so forth. A handy offline resource for tourist attractions is Travel America, which is free and well worth having.

If you enjoy geocaching as you travel, I recommend a copy of C:GEO. It quickly displays a list of caches near you organized by distance. It has a map and a compass for guidance to the site. There are others available in the app store, but this one is my favorite, and it’s free.

Accountability

If you track your travel expenses, it can be quite cumbersome with receipts piling up and tucked away in your glove compartment, pockets, suitcase, and so forth. My Droid X made it really simple with a free app called Expensify. Expensify lets you manually enter your expenses manually by category for reimbursement and tax purposes. You can even scan in receipts quickly. All records are backed up online and can be exported. It’s a great app.

There are many other apps in this category that you may wish to investigate some free, some not, but Expensify seemed to serve my needs the best.

If you are into keeping track of your vehicle performance, maintenance, and mileage there are apps for that as well. Try autoMOBILE for $.99.

Productivity

Whether traveling for pleasure or business, it’s always good to be able to travel lightly without being burdened with a bulky laptop and yet remain productive. With my Droid X, I was able to be just as productive as I wished to be without missing a beat. The most serious bottleneck to productivity with a handheld is an efficient means of inputting. The onboard keyboard just isn’t designed for productive inputting. I’m happy to report that with the Droid X it’s was possible for me to use my Freedom, full size, five row, fold-out keyboard connected via Bluetooth with the help of an app called KeyPro. KeyPro is available in the Market. You can download it and test it on your device for free. But, if it works, you will want to acquire the paid version at a cost of $9.95, a most worthwhile investment in your mobile productivity.

I’ll have to admit that I really struggled getting the keyboard to work. It was an ordeal of patience and persistence, but once I got the keyboard introduced to my Droid X, it was a perfect marriage. Once you get it set up, it is easy to connect. When I get time, I intend to write an article about the necessary steps to make it all happen quickly and easily.

Another drawback to non-Windows devices is that they are not able to read office documents. A partial solution may be to view items stored online in Google Docs. However, the key to true mobile productivity is the ability to not only to view, but to create and edit Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and PDF documents. What to do?

Luckily there is a marvelous third party app by DataViz called Documents to Go. The free version only allows you to view .doc and .xls file. To view, edit, and create .doc, .xls, .ppt, and .dof files, you will need the paid version, which only costs $14.99.

The new version 3.0 sports an all new user interface with many improved features. You can now access all the Google Docs and edit them. You can even create new ones.

This is a must have application if you want to be a serious roadwarrior. Don’t leave home without it.

There are times when it can be a matter of life or death if you need to access data from your home or office computer remotely. This happened to me more than once during my trip, and fortunately, there are apps for this. One I can highly recommend is PhoneMyPC. Take notice though, you must install it on your PC before you leave home. You cannot do it remotely. So, buy before you fly. It costs $9.95 and is another worthwhile investment in mobile independence.

With all the above productivity tools, you are ready to do battle and face any exigency while on the road and remain prolifically creative while traveling.

Entertainment

I will resist the temptation to talk about games because there are just too many and everyone has his or her own idea about suitable games. However, I noticed that a completely free full version of Angry Birds became available when I was on the road. I gave it a try and found it mindless but addicting. There is a companion program called Angry Birds Walkthrough that will give you a solution to every level.

One of the frustrations I face while in hotel rooms is that all the channels and times are different for my favorite programs. Even if I am lucky enough to find one I like, I still have to suffer through commercials, which I abhor.

My best solution is Slingplayer, which I’m pleased to report is available for Android. On my Droid X I am now able to access and control my home TV in HD and watch live or recorded TV from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. It takes the pain out of traveling at the end of a long day. In order to use this marvelous source of entertainment, you must have a Slingbox installed on your home TV. Go to Slingmedia.com for details.

If you are hooked on viewing TV There are some free and paid apps that will allow you to view a limited number of selections. TV.com is a good one, free, but with few full episode available. You may wish to try the new paid version of Hulu for $9.95 a month. You may wish to check out SPB TV and Orb as well.

If you have already downloaded a bunch on your favorite tunes, you are all set to go for listening pleasure while driving or relaxing with the building player. Or you can download new tunes online. If you are really a tune freak, you may wish to carry an additional micro SD card full of music.

Of course there are all kinds of music listening opportunities from a plethora of online radio stations from all over the world. You should never be at a loss for music while traveling.

Hands down, my very favorite all time app is Pandora. It’s a free download and allows you to enter your favorite artists, albums, or tunes. It will find other similar music to play for your listening pleasure.

As it’s dangerous to use ear buds or Bluetooth headphones while driving, a better solution it to pick up a nifty little FM modulator at WalMart and elsewhere for ten bucks. All you do is plug your Droid into it and tune to an empty FM frequency on your radio to broadcast your phone’s audio over your car speaker system. This works great for audiobooks as well.

Speaking of audiobooks, if you don’t like the high price of purchasing audiobooks, which can be as high as $85 for unabridged editions, try Audiobooks for free in the Android store. I spent many pleasant hours driving listening to sold old classics. Audiobooks really make the time pass quickly and enjoyably. Be sure to use a Bluetooth speaker or FM modulator hookup though for safety.

If you’d rather curl up with a good book once in a while instead of watching the boob tube, grab a good eReader app from the store. Basically, you are all set to go because a copy of Kindle eBook reader comes installed on the Droid X. Kindle is semi-satisfactory but doesn’t begin to compare to readers I’ve known in Windows Mobile. There are other readers available in the Market, most are free. You can go to Amazon.com and download ebooks for pay for free. There are many other places on the Web with eBooks available. There are even some in the Android Market.

I don’t know about your library, but my local library features NetLibrary that allows you to download WMA and MP3 unabridged eAudiobooks. Of course, I can do this from anywhere while on the road, and it’s free. It worked flawlessly on my Droid X. Check it out at your library.

About the only time I would read a tree book would be if I were in prison. Thank goodness eBooks are available on the Droid. My mantra for years has been, “Ebooks rule; treebooks drool,” and I’m sticking with it.

Conclusion

I found no problem traveling with my Droid X instead of a laptop. I cannot think of anything I lacked in the way of productivity, entertainment, and making my trip efficient and enjoyable. It’s like having a concierge in your pocket at your beck and call. While I mentioned all the apps that made my trip more practical, there are probably many others that would contribute to one’s travel well being. I welcome your comments if you have any suggestions.