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Monday, August 8, 2011

Best Tech stories today - Amazon sharing too much?, Discount iPhone4, Apps store too much data

RadioShack runs temporary discounts on iPhone4:

Amazon  social network sharing too much?:

Smartphone apps store too much data:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kindle or Nook? Why not both on the same device! And that device is...

Let's face it being tied to one stores set of eBooks can be a drag.  If you own a Kindle not all books you might want are available and they don't sell a color device or touch screen, plus some books you want are on Barnes and Noble's Nook.  If you own a Nook, again not all books may be available for your device but you can find some of the books you want on Amazon.  Maybe instead of a Nook or a Kindle you need an android tablet?!  Notice I didn't say iPad.  Apple has already told Amazon and Barnes and Noble they don't want competition on book sales on their device so their apps won't be allowed to build in that functionality on the iPad.  So your safer bet is the Android tablets that can run both the Kindle and Nook readers, and give you the best options for books from both sites.  The Nook reader on android seems faster but harder to use.  The Kindle reader seems a bit slower on android but slightly easier to use than the Nooks.  Both let you get access to each stores books, purchase and download.  Plus with a tablet you will likely get color.  This works quite well on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.  So if you want some flexibility with the best access to eBooks on the planet, the answer is likely an Android tablet.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G Quick Review


The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G Verizon tablet has been released in all of its android glory.  The interface on the Samsung is slick and fast with its dual core processor.  The screen is bright and crisp.  Sometimes when the lighting is lower than usual the display dims more than you might like, but generally stays readable.  Responsiveness was excellent with screens coming up very quickly in response to the touch interface.  It took a little bit getting used to the interface coming from the phone.  There is no menu button on the main UI like there is on an android phone.  You will find a soft menu button in some of the applications on the top of the screen rather than the bottom where you normally would find it on something like the droid X.

The keyboard was easy to use in portrait mode with two thumbs, in landscape mode it was too big for my hands to hold it and use my thumbs easily.  The keyboard feels comfy in landscape mode if you can put the tablet down.

The boot time is fairly quick, it seems significantly faster than a droid X though I haven’t timed it.


Sim card

Power/docking connector

Headphone jack


I was able to tether this through a phone.


The speed of the user interface is very fast.  Perhaps the fastest android UI available on the market.  The browser has been much improved and also renders and loads very quickly.  Even going over 3G and comparing a phone over 3G the Samsung galaxy tab browser seemed much faster.  The 4G browsing speed seemed almost as fast as wifi.  I did notice some occasional signal drop outs  with 4G signal during my daily commute.



Google Books











Google search




Media Hub

Movie Studio




Quick Office



You Tube

I had been hoping to find that Netflix would be accessible but it is not.  I also could not find the facebook app either.


The browsing experience seems much improved over the phone browsers.


Android version 3.1

Data plans

The Verizon data plans start at $30 for 2GB.

If you have a phone already with a hotspot and a data plan you might consider using the hotspot on your phone as the plan might be cheaper. 


The galaxy tab may be the first android tablet that meets or beats the functionality of the ipad in many respects.    That said the lack of equivalent good apps makes for a bit less of an experience.  I wanted to run Netflix and get wired magazine for example but those are iPad only apps at the moment.  Also even the facebook app seemed to be missing (although the google+ app seemed available).  If you can live with the fewer set of apps this android tablet seems by far the best I have seen so far.  I’ve only spent a few days with it so far, and I’m liking it a lot, just wish some of the ipad apps were available on android.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Device Insurance - What to do when you can't buy extended warranty from your point of purchase

Recently I found myself considering the purchase of the samsung galaxy tab tablet 10.1 4G from Verizon.  Then I realized that they don't offer insurance unless you stay on one of their data plans.  Since I don't plan to regularly use their plan then there is no insurance option.
Two thoughts popped to mind:
I had safeware for years before the company/division was sold years ago, they dropped all of their policies once it was sold and their terms became much more restrictive and expensive.
I've purchased square trade warranties but never had to use one yet.
I'll assume a purchase for a tablet of around $700.
SquareTrade 2 Year Extended plan - $54.99
Safeware 2 Year Extended plan    - $79.00
Safeware 3 Year Extended plan    - $89.00

Square Trade 2 year plan w/Accidental damage - $99.99
Safeware 2 year plan w/Accidental damage     - $149.00
Safeware 3 year plan w/Accidental damage     - $189.00

Square trade prices are obviously better. Safeware seems to offer another year on tablets are a price that is only slightly more than their one year.  Square trade seems to claim they typically have a better price than best buy warranty's.  Looking for comments/reviews online showed up many on epinions.com for squaretrade and very few for safeware.  Squaretrade most reviews seemed positive with just a few negatives here and there.  If not a huge difference in price depending on the item if a store offered in store replacement/fixing you might prefer that over mailing a device in.  Squaretrade may be worth a try if you want a lower price option than in store, or is not available from the place of purchase as long as you don't mind mail in repairs/replacements.

Be sure to read the details of each there are many requirements and limitations.  Often warranty must be purchased between 60 days of original purchase.  Accidental damage sometimes only covers factory new purchases.  Pre-existing conditions aren't covered, etc. (Read very carefully.)

Are warranty's worth it?
I would say it depends.
For expensive devices likely to break and hard to repair it may be worth it if not too expensive.
Accidental damage can happen very easily to a laptop, netbook, smartphone, tablet - they are small relatively fragile devices that are often fairly expensive.

Anyone have experience with actual repairs/replacements from safeware/squaretrade?  Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

Update from an older blog entry: (7/20/11)

I still have the Readynas Pro Business mentioned in the article below.  It works well at the moment.  I did want to point out some additional information/points.

There is a 5 year warranty.  It was only a little more money to get the extra hardware warranty they offer to allow for faster service/replacement swaps, etc.  That turned out to be a good deal as when I had an issue they swapped my entire unit out, and they also replaced one of my drives that failed.
If you need software support on using the device, that can get expensive, prices for a 1 year support plan ran around $300 if I recall.  Luckily if you search for the SKU you might find it a lot cheaper somewhere.  I did and picked up the warranty for a fraction of that amount.  Having the software support made working with Netgear support much easier to deal with and helpful.

The issue that started happening with my readynas was it kept dropping off the network, nothing I could change or do seemed to keep it working.  I noticed if I factory defaulted the drives the problem went away... so the only option was to backup ALL my data (luckily still fit on a 2TB USB drive), and factory default the Readynas unit with 6 drives in it and reload the data.  That solved the problem.  I think perhaps trying to install a third party add-on at one point perhaps caused issues, I don't know if that is the case or not just speculation.

With all of that corrected it is running ok.  I do seem to notice that drives seem to fail in it more often than I would expect. I've had probably two drives fail in the last 6 months or so and another drive seems about to fail.  I don't know if that is the drives, the unit is sensitive or some other factors are involved.  The drives should be under warranty if I can find the time to get warranty replaced.  Often I just upgrade to the next size up to increase my storage.

Another note is the power saving spindown option never seems to work well for me and often seemed to take the unit offline and requiring a restart of the unit to get things working again, I haven't tried with the latest firmware as I gave up on this feature a while back.
On the good side I haven't lost any data with this NAS running in X-raid dual redundancy mode even with drives failing once.  I wish that the xraid was a little more flexible like the Drobo units raid, but all in all the xraid seems to be doing a fine job.


Older Blog entry below:

Finding a Super NAS Drive one user’s story

May 21, 2009
I’m going to offer this from the point of view of just a power user looking for a good NAS to provide redundancy for data/backup. I did review a lot of sites drive reviews. I only looked at data I could find on web sites and did not have drives to test myself. The reality is often times most of us looking to buy something have to decide based on limited/imperfect data.

When I went looking for a NAS drive, what was important to me was keeping my data safe, backing it up as quickly as possible, providing enough storage for the future, easy upgrading of storage, raid 6 (or mirror striped 10 support for speed and redundancy.), Good support and available recovery services in case any issues ever arose.

Other NAS drives I considered:
Thecus N5200Pro
Thecus N7700
Synology DS-508
Buffalo NAS drives (varied Terastation, etc.)

Handling dual drive failures:
Since the 4 drive units didn’t generally support striped mirror (except buffalo units) or raid 6 I decided to focus more on the 5+ drive NAS drives. This allowed for handling two drive failures while still being able to handle easily 3-4TB of space with today’s drives.
If you don’t support two drive failure cases if one fails your data is unprotected until you swap the drive (other than backups).

I wanted to focus on devices using Sata II or later for speed. This dropped the dated ReadyNAS NV+ out (though was dropped earlier for space and redundancy reasons).

iScsi (optional but nice):
While not essential this is a nice option if you want to add drive space to a computer and have it look like and actual drive, while having the data be stored safely on the NAS. Windows Vista can support iScsi right out of the box connection to a partitioned drive on your NAS as an iScsi target as if it was an actual drive, often times could be better performance than a pure NAS.

Snapshots (optional but nice):
A very nice feature to freeze a snapshot of a view of your drive to allow you to backup files that might otherwise be in use. (Ideally enterprise NAS can have many snapshots at different points in time).
Snapshots are often implemented as a block level differences between the snapshot and the current drive state. This means space needs to be allocated to hold enough disk differences between the time you take the snapshot and the time you can release/delete the snapshot.

The ability to add hard drives or swap out a smaller drive for a larger drive

In the event of a raid failure which company offered at least seemingly available and reputable data recovery services such that they should be familiar with their raid nas storage to facilitate recovery.

No extra software required on client machines.
Cost – (Of course)
Cloud storage (optional but nice).
Recycle Bin

ProductReadyNAS Pro (6 bay) RNDP6350 – 1.5TBThecus N5200 PRO (5 bay)Thecus N7700 (7 bay)Synology DS-508 (5 bay)Terastation III (4 bay) – 6TBQNAP TS-639
Raid6/10Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 6Raid 01Raid 6
iScsiYesYesYesNo (one model does though)
SnapshotsYes (1)YesYesYes?No
Recovery serviceYesNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on siteNot found on site?
Cloud storageVaultNoNo???
Recycle binYesNOYesYes
U.S. SupportYes?????
Community supportYesYesYes???
Multimedia supportYesYesYesYesLimited?
Warranty5 years1 year?1 year?3 year
Street Cost$1530$585$906$1025$1923$1100

The cost of the N5200Pro definitely made it worth considering. From all accounts it appears to be a formidable nas drive. The lack of recycle bin support was nagging at me for this one, along with some complaints about support, not being U.S. based or publishing their recovery service, along with short warranty made me decide against. The same thing could be said of the Thecus N7700 the allure of a 7 drive NAS, recycle bin support made me seriously consider this along with the virtual cd/dvd option on Thecus. If my criteria had been just a fast network storage location with great features for the money the Thecus units probably would have been my pick. If recovery at all costs were not a main theme on my mind I might have went for the Thecus line for cost and features.

ReadyNAS Pro:
At first you would think why go with the readynas given the price. Many of the other units have their price with no drives and if you added 1.5TB would probably add around $210 or so to the cost. Plus the readynas units come with a 5 year warranty that could easily run another $150+. Still some of the units seem a better deal price wise. Then factor in xraid2, cloud storage capability, U.S. based support and recovery services available, at least for me kicked this one over the edge.

Only one snapshot allowed.
Vault service - no real private key support, and allows online configuration to pull anything off your drive rather than limiting the shares.
FlexRaid modes do not support any volume expansion.

Generally great recommendations and reviews online
Vault service – cloud storage available
Xraid2 – flexible volume expansion
Recovery service available
6 drives
U.S headquarters
One on the highest performance NAS drives
Good web interface
Good community support
Nice add-ons available

After purchasing and using found out:
Vault service:
Vault service seems to insecure for me as if someone hacked your password they could backup and view anything on your readynas (I leave the service disabled).

Power saving:
The ReadyNAS Pro Can’t run power down mode if you do not have a UPS and want drive safety, as journaling is required to be disabled in power down mode.

If you don’t use the same user name and password as your workgroup you will likely have login issues.
  1. Rather than selecting from a list of users configured it has you type in the name of the user free text.
Also you don’t set the read/write permissions for each user or group you instead add the user or group freetext to an a field.

I discovered the costly way that older UPS’s (non-USB) don’t work with the readynas. Once I got an APC ups on their approved list it was just plug and play.

Shares/Configuring security:
Creating basic shares seemed easy enough, configuring the entitlements for read/write was a little non-obvious having to click on the CIFS icon on the share screen.

Frontview (web) backup:
The frontview (web) backup option to backup up many sources including remote shared drives is a nice feature. Backups using the frontview sometimes seem to slow down to the point of they might as well be stopped. Luckily restarting them usual it picks up speed quickly. The performance of writing to usb drives is fairly bad unless you enable the usb write caching option on the interface. Once that is enabled, the data rate seems reasonable at something like 1GB copied between 30-60 seconds or so. Cancelling backups are either taking a very long time or don’t work. I also had wished the backup logs could be viewed while the job was running (maybe it can and just doesn’t update anything till complete… I never saw any data till complete). I set up my backup to copy my entire volume all shares to my external usb drives on different days each week into different directories. I don’t have enough storage for daily backups to external, so I use once a day snapshots to help at least keep the previous 24 hours available on top of the 4 times a week backup I have to the usb drives.

iScsi Target:
The iScsi target worked fine, easily allocating space and connecting to it from a windows vista machine. Expanding the storage space for the iScsi drive also worked well.

Redundancy/raid recovery:
Note that xraid2 with dual redundancy (basically raid 6) needs the 4.2.5 firmware or later and requires a minimum of 4 drives for the option to display. Also not that you lose the expandability normally associated with xraid2 unless all drives are upgraded. (also requires rebooting and setting up the array).
I tested switching to xraid2 dual redundancy and adding a 4th drive to make it redundant.
I also tested removing a drive and adding it back.

Email notifications:
Allows entering an smtp server to send email. These are nice but they notify on normal conditions for many items rather than just on errors.

The plethora of features like dual NIC in failover or bonding mode for the ReadyNAS Pro wasn’t something that I had been looking for but was a pleasant surprise.

When running with 4 drives installed noise is about the same as a PC’s fan. When first starting up the fans sound like they are cranked to their highest rpm and are quite a bit noisier. I have the unit in a closet I keep open about 7 ft away I can barely hear a faint hum over my pc’s noise.

The online community is pretty responsive and they seem to have ReadyNAS experts from netgear frequent the site often with answers to a lot of questions. Also helping users with purchase/product issues.

Add Ons:
There are a bunch of add-ons including things like wordpress blogs could be run on the readynas, some monitoring add-ons (performance), etc.

I did find out a number of items after the fact like the lack of easy expandability in xraid2 dual redundancy mode. , Vault service not very secure, decided not to run in power saving drive spin down mode since journaling is disabled. It has been running well with automatic backups going to two external USB drives I have. One is an old 500GB western digital I just threw in a case. Another a USB Seagate free agent 1.5TB I connected to the front port as my rear port has the other drive and an APC UPS. I did find out after the fact only one snapshot is supported and I find myself wishing it supported multiple snapshots.
  1. I find I wish it allowed a separate password than using the logged in account and wish it ran as a pure service rather than just under the account the user logged in with.

Firmware upgrades were painless and easy done right from the frontview web interface.
Even with all of these things finding out after the purchase, I still find I’m pretty happy with the NAS. Other than the price of the NAS I would definitely recommend this drive to others. Knowing ReadyNAS Pro has a 5 year warranty, expandability, recovery service and a great community board at www.readynas.com, this is an easy one to recommend to a friend that had enough of a budget to cover this. Be careful the cheaper versions of the readyNAS pro the pioneer edition are reported to be lacking a bunch of features like snapshots and line bonding, etc (I don’t know all of the missing features from that model).

Update September 2015 After several years of great use it seems to have developed a power problem where it will either continuously restart if turned off using the power button on front, or if shut off with the back power button it may take a while before it will start up if turned back on again.

Old version is hard to find, but newer revision of original shown here:

Click to find on Amazon

The best Spyware protection software?

Republish of an older blog entry.  I still find this to be one of the best spyware removal software packages and recommend it to people that are ok with paying for it.  Alternatively there are some free packages out there that are pretty good like Lava Adaware and Spybot Search&Destroy.  I continue to find times machines are infected and normal antivirus/antispyware programs like Norton, Mcaffee, or Kapersky won't find or remove, then I reach for Spysweeper and it usually sweeps it clean (I've only run into one case so far it didn't, then Microsofts old windows defender saved the day).


The best Spyware protection software?

May 29, 2009
Spysweeper from Webroot? This is not for viruses, but for adware, Trojans, spyware, malware, etc. My first experience with spy sweeper was a few years ago when one machine I had, seemed to be using an extreme amount of CPU. It seemed to me to be some type of virus/spyware/adware. I was using a beta version of Microsoft’s onecare at the time to protect my pc. OneCare did not find anything. I tried to download a few other products but they didn’t find anything either. I figured why not call Microsoft since they were offering free support on the beta for one care. I did, after an hour or so of trying to detect the spyware OneCare could not the MS rep told me here, try this link and download SpySweeper it usually finds everything. I downloaded and ran it. Sure enough it found the spyware and removed it. Even since then I have been using spysweeper. Spysweeper certainly does a good job of finding items on your PC, the only problem is it’s shields sometimes seem to consume a large amount of CPU time for no obvious reason. On occasion when I see that happening I will disable the shields and only run sweeps when once in a while and when I need to. Generally this is one of the tools I turn to when nothing else can find a problem. Given a recent experience I will likely try the built in windows defender first and follow up with spy sweeper. You can buy it retail for around $29.95, or possibly cheaper online.

Update slightly newer version here: 

Click here to find on Amazon

Update: The protection lately doesn't seem as good as it used to be.

Keurig brewer Model B66 home brewer

(Republished from an old blog as I wanted to report more than 2 years later the unit is still working great and I enjoy the coffee from it.  I use it mostly on the weekends - as during the week I get my coffee fix at work :)  )


(Republished from an old blog as I wanted to report more than 2 years later the unit is still working great and I enjoy the coffee from it.  I use it mostly on the weekends - as during the week I get my coffee fix at work :)  )

Original review

Keurig brewer Model B66 home brewer

June 3, 2009
First you may ask what is this doing on a tech blog. I don’t know if your office is like mine but if the coffee machine is on the fritz that could amount to a 20% loss in productivity! J

The concept of the brewer is good in theory, keep the coffee fresh, and the temperature of the water right along with the pressure. This doesn’t account for filtered water or not which is probably a good idea to use (though arguably the filter in the k-cup filters some).

Setup was pretty simple the unit was mostly assembled, only requiring connecting the front drip tray.
Then the manual has you prime the pump by just using water for the first cup or two without using a kcup.
You will note the pump when it pumps water in is noisy. Surprisingly loud and vibrating.

Usage is about as simple as you could get
  1. Fill the reservoir with water
  2. turn the unit on then wait till it says ready to brew
  3. Lift the large handle on the front, insert a kcup and close using the handle
  4. Then press the brew button for the size cup you have. Important for the large cup size you will need Kcups that say BOLD on them. These have extra coffee in them so that you can use the larger size cups.

Note: Be careful not to turn off or unplug the unit when it is pumping in water (you’ll hear the pump), or when it says add water. If you do not heed this your next cup will likely be a partial cup and you will have wasted a kcup.
Note I noticed when filling the reservoir it seems to leak on me a little bit at the bottom, not sure this is me or the design but happened often enough to notice. After there is a bit of water in there it doesn’t seem to leak anymore.

The coffees:
There is a wide selection of kcups available for coffee, less so for tea and hot chocolate.
Personally I’ve come to like the Timothy’s hazelnut, French vanilla or the green mountain hazelnut ( a bit of a lighter roast).
You can find a small selection at many grocery stores these days.
Ordering online at the keurig web site was simple to do, and I got my coffee I ordered within a few days.

The taste:
If you are a coffee aficionado the whole idea of this coffee maker probably already put you off, so you might wish to stay away. The coffee is consistent and tastes ok to good with a wide variety of flavors/types available. If you like really strong coffee you should try someone else’s unit first as some people find even with the BOLD kcups and a medium size mug brew the coffee isn’t strong enough for them. (I personally find it plenty strong for me and know many other people feel the same with some people saying it is a little too strong for a dark roast even without the BOLD kcups). We have a keurig brewer at work and the great majority of people find the coffee ok, there are a few folks that like a really strong cup and use BOLD kcups and half the water option (available on some commercial brewer styles only).

Updated: The leaking I noticed appears to have been happening when I tried to fill the resevoir a cup at a time while leaving it attached to the unit. If you instead remove the resevoir and fill it then re-attach I have not noticed any leaking.


While the model in this article is old and hard to find now, you may want to try one of the  newer Keurig's.

Find on Amazon click here

Belkin Powerline AV+ 200Mb/s (quick review)

(Republish of an older blog as I wanted to report I still use this product as of 7/20/11 and it is still running great!
Older blog post:

July 3, 2009
I have a desktop pc downstairs in my home that had been connecting to our wireless router upstairs.
Our family got so fed up with wireless disconnecting I decided to look for other options. I had been reluctant to use powerline connections due to their speed. Then I saw the new Belkin Powerline AV+ at 200Mb/s and figured these were worth a try.

The setup on these could not have been easier. I put one upstairs by my router and the other downstairs by my PC and decided to reset the security code, which is basically just pressing a button on one and then the other (best to do that in the same outlet to make it easy first then move them). They sync’d up quickly and put the units back in place.
I plugged them into the router and desktop and away they went.
I had a direct connection, the connection seemed fast and available with no disconnects.
Setup was easy, use was easy, I have not measure performance but seems fine for normal internet usage. I have not had any disconnection issues at all. We are very happy with these units.
If you want to deplace a wireless connection due to disconnects on a wireless connection to a desktop pc, these seem to be a great option. I’m even considering another unit to use when I’m stationary with my laptop!
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Aliph Jawbone Icon - One of the best bluetooth earpieces

(I wanted to republish this from an older blog as I still have the same Aliph Jawbone Icon and it still works great.  It is still my favorite bluetooth ear piece over a year later)-------------------------------------------
Original below:

Aliph Jawbone Icon

April 15, 2010
I’ve been using a Jawbone Icon for a few weeks now, I wanted to provide a quick review of what I’ve experienced so far. One of the things I had been looking for in a bluetooth headset is the ability to be sure when I turn it off it stays off. Most bluetooth headsets just by tapping or holding a button they turn on. That means they often turn on accidentally, in your pocket, briefcase, etc. Very few headsets offer a good switch. The motorola flip out boom is one on some of their models. Now the Jawbone icon adds a small slider switch on the back that seems to do the trick so far.
One thing to be aware of, while I’m not positive this is the case it seems to me that some of the units tagged to have a specific voice profile, like the thinker, etc. may not be what it says. (At least the one I got sounded like one of the other voice profiles). I decided I liked the one I got better than the one I had planned to purchase though so kept it. I have not tried downloading other voice profiles yet.
I used the default earpiece that came with the unit which seems to fit pretty well. It is a different type of ear fit then I have seen before but seems to work ok but takes a little getting used to. It comes with in ear style and over the ear style pieces, I only tried the in ear.
I tested with an original verizon blackberry curve.
Sound quality:
The sound quality is good. Every caller I spoke with said the sound quality was good. When windy people still did notice the noise.
Sound quality on my side was clear. I did have to turn up the volume on my blackberry which made the sound louder on the Jawbone Icon.
There is no volume adjustment on the icon itself, it is supposed to auto adjust to the surrounding sound. It seemed to be loud enough when I turned the volume up on my blackberry.
Too early to tell. Need more testing on talk time.
Voice status feature:
The voice notify on callers calling, startup, call reject were ok. I found myself wishing for some better sounding ones like Arnold from “terminator” :)
It comes with just the wall charger and a really short cable to connect to it (and to usb to update the voice profiles/other features). I tried the website but didn’t download any voice profiles to try yet.
This is one of the smaller headsets I have seen. It is nicely styled and looks good. It seems to come in a somewhat glossy and matte style, with different default voice profiles.
All in all so far a couple weeks in the Jawbone icon is the best bluetooth earpiece I have owned to date. (I’ve owned mostly motorola bluetooth devices many different ones). It seems priced reasonably for a high end bluetooth headset. Those with corporate discounts at wireless providers like verizon might wish to purchase there and save on your accessory purchase. With those discounts and getting a device like this is a nice deal.

Update September 2015 - I've had the older model of this one now since I originally published.  I still really like it and still use it when needed.
Click here or the picture to buy on amazon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thinking about a Verizon smartphone upgrade? Its a harder decision with only 2 year contracts

If you had not heard Verizon eliminated their 1 year contract plans.  This means whatever phone you get, you will be stuck with for almost two years.  Given that you might want to make sure you get the latest technology you can, like 4GLTE which should be rolling out broadly over the next two years.  If you can wait till August 4, 2011 the rumored date of the Droid Bionic release, this should be the most feature rich smartphone on Verizon when released.  There is some hope for 1 year contracts.  There have been reports on the web of customers no longer under contract being sent an email inviting them to accept a new 1 year contract.  The problem is no one knows if that includes a phone upgrade and if it would remove a grandfathered unlimited data plan.

Amazon - lots of books, but where are the newspapers and magazines?

Amazon has lots of books now, is seemingly leading the market. I used to avoid the eBooks as there was a derth of books of the technical variety, but no longer.  Once hooked on eBooks I started to look towards newspapers and magazines.  I found the top newspapers in the country are online, but not many local papers.  Still now 6 months later the same papers are there and it doesn't seem there are anymore coming.  For magazines there are a few major magazines for Kindle but not much else, and not much has changed.  For newspapers there doesn't appear to be a lot of other options.  For magazines zinio seems to have quite a few popular magazines available on desktop, ipad, android platforms.  I'm hoping Amazon can get more local newspapers onboard, and more major magazines.  In the meantime if you want newspapers online you might have to look at individual solutions.  If you want magazines you might want to consider looking at Zinio for ipad, android, desktop.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google+ Overview (also want an Invite?)

If you'd like an invite send an email and we'll see what we can do. Google seems to be hitting limits still once in a while. (I'm sure we won't be able invite everyone)

Signup for Google+:
You will need a google attached account, either gmail or another email you have signed up with.
Google has a nasty habit of wanting to verify you via text message to your cell phone or calling you at some number (this is not specific to Google+ but in general for all Google accounts).

Your Circles:
You can add email addresses or people that are on Google+ to your circles. If they are not on Google+ they will get an email when you share something with them or a circle they are in.
Your circles are like groups of people with you can communicate/share with.
Note unlike facebook when you add someone to your circle, they don't have to add you to theirs. So sharing can end up being one way (depending on the permissions you have assigned to the circle they are in.)

Your streams (Nearby (mobile), Stream and Incoming):
In your Stream you can see posts from you and people that have added you to their circles and shared things with those circles. Nearby on android app are public posts from people nearby your location if it is known. Incoming is for posts shared with you but where the person is not in one of your circles.
(A little confusing isn't it all).

Facebook made sharing somewhat symmetrically requiring both friends to accept before full sharing could happen. That is not the way it works on Google+, you can share with someone that does not share back. I suspect folks used to Facebook (read everyone), may have some trouble keeping up with this.

Are like chat groups where you can also do video. (I ahven't tried this yet).


You can post/share with entire circles, all circles, all your circles and your friends circles or variations of those.

Privacy controls:
Many items defaulted to be accessed by anyone on the internet. Some visibility settings won't let you change it to private even though the option is there (perhaps a bug?) Overall there seem to be significantly less options to control what you want people in your circles to be able to do as compared to facebook. They do have a nice layout though putting the setting right next to the profile item on your profile, which makes it much easier to see how things are configured and change them.

What seems missing compared to facebook:
Applications are missing. If you don't use any or are annoyed anyway by farmville this may not be a big deal. Pages are also missing, which means its hard to link interests, etc to relevant content. No fan pages or user pages for public figures that want to maintain a separate page. There are no groups yet so there is no way to create discussion forums for groups of people. Notes are missing, there is no concept like this yet. Bling, etc also is not available. Finally people are missing, while there may be 10million people, unless you invite all of your friends.

There is no writing to someones wall.  (This is a big one. In some ways it changes the nature of sharing for some people that are used to having this enabled).

There is also no integrated message system like email for private messages between G+ users. (Yes there is Gmail but its not really integrated with the notification system, etc.)

What Google+ has that facebook doesn't (by default):
One way sharing
Viewing public posts of nearby users (mobile)
More export of data options
Video chat (Huddles)

Google+ seems like a basic implementation reboot of facebook. For those that hoped privacy would be better there doesn't to be any sign that it will be with many items being defaulted to be visible to anyone on the web. The concept of one way sharing with circles is liable to throw many facebookers for a loop when they add a friend and they don't get added back (thus one way sharing could happen accidentally or purposely.) The mobile platform was about as well featured as the facebook equivalent on android up until recently when facebook seemed to race to add pages to their app plus some additional niceties. Google+ just hit 10million users but it still seems really quiet there and I think lots of folks will likely not want to move to google's platform until it is a better match to facebook and more of their friends are there. Google+ still needs a lot more features and users if it wants to even get close to Facebook. I do applaud the attempt and look forward to monitoring the improvements they make.

New Facebook Android app adds Pages and some unwanted additions

The latest version of the facebook app for android 1.6.1 supports facebook pages (only yours).  You can't see anyone elses.  It also seems to send your contact information to facebook or at least over to use it to find your friends on facebook without even asking if it should do a contact sync like it used to.  Also it asks for your phone number to post to your facebook account, giving you only two options OK or NOT NOW.