Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘gadgets’ Category

(Not) Home For The Holidays

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I’m pretty happy I don’t have to travel today.  I’m going to wait until tomorrow, when all the turkeys have gotten off the road.

Of course, watch out for Wal-Mart and other big retail parking lots.  The consternation about having to work on Thanksgiving is pervasive, and I wouldn’t want to see any customers attempt to play Frogger in those big parking lots.  It’s dangerous enough just trying to get through the doors and into the store!

As always, my wise counsel is to shop from the comfort of your couch.

Walt Mossberg, the ever-dependable tech journalist with The Wall Street Journal, has written an article about “Making Sense of All the New Laptop Flavors.”

He goes on about the various flavors of Windows 8 PCs and tablets, before concluding that the “least costly Mac laptop” is the 11-inch MacBook Air, for $999.

I bought one just about a year ago, and I maintain it’s still the best, fastest, lightest, most dependable computer I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned plenty.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have splurged for more SSD, but that’s it.

If you want to make sure your personal shopping engine is fully revved before Black Friday, Gizmodo’s providing its Ultimate Black Friday guide for geeks, grouping deals by category, and offering a list of when every retailer is slated to be open on Black Friday, just in case you prefer shopping in a mosh pit.

As for an update on my new Apple Mini-me “mini,” otherwise known as the 5th generation iPod touch, I can only say I have no buyer’s remorse, even now after having seen the iPad mini in the flesh.

The retina screen and the small form factor on the newest touch are working perfectly for me thus far. I bought a new “Need for Speed” racing game just to be able to check out the graphics in full force, and the retina screen is simply stunning (as are movies and Netflix streams). I’ve always read what a great gaming platform the touch is, but playing that racing game has cemented it.

Over the next several days, if you want to keep pace with IBM’s annual holiday campaign “Digital Analytics” benchmark, just follow IBM’s e-shopping analytics guru, @jay_henderson (a fellow Texan!).

Jay and his team will be working and posting reports throughout the weekend and into next week to keep us all informed how the holiday e-retail season is going. Jay’s already indicated we can expect to see growing numbers on the mobile and tablet shopping footprint this year.  You can read Jay’s holiday set up piece here.

That said, don’t ignore those retail emails piling up in your in-box — email continues to be the e-retail Trojan Horse, with lots of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals already being distributed. From Amazon to Golfsmith, I’ve received a number of holiday email deals, and it’s all I can do to keep my credit card filed away in my anti-scanning wallet!

If you’re looking for gainful employment this pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday, you might want to try somewhere other than LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Website had a “service unavailable” message this morning, and TechCrunch has been reporting a LinkedIn site outage.

As for me, I’ll be (mostly) disappearing from the cyber maze over the course of the next week. It’s my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, and I’m taking them on a cruise in the Caribbean to celebrate. I may send a post or two via email if I’m so inspired, but mostly I’ll be spending some quality time with my parents and some extended family, and gazing out at the Gulf of Mexico in a pina colada-induced haze (virgin pina coladas, of course).

For all of my readers here in the United States, I wish you a very happy and restful holiday weekend. For those of you outside the U.S., enjoy the email and conference call silence from your U.S. colleagues…it won’t last long!

Waiting For The New iPhone 5?

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So tomorrow’s the day.

We find out what the Apple iPhone 5 is all about.

Before we discover what the details behind the new Apple smartphone are, I thought it might be interesting to provide a quick glimpse at the state of the mobile marketplace here in the U.S.

I unearthed a blog post from TechCrunch from September 4th, citing the “latest data” from comScore that suggests Apple’s smartphone market share has grown to just over 33 percent, up 2 percent since April of this year.

That study surveyed over 30,000 U.S. mobile phone subscribers, which revealed that Google’s Android continues to keep the pace, holding 52 percent share, a 1.4 percent increase since April.

RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, decline some 2.1 percent, down from 11.6 percent to 9.5 percent.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform also saw a 0.4 percent decline in the same data, dropping from 4.0 percent to 3.6 percent.

And Symbian brings up the rear, down 0.5 percent, from 1.3 percent to 0.8 percent.

Despite the recent patent verdict, device maker Samsung is holding steady for smartphone device share at 25.6 percent in the latest period while Apple stood at 16.3 percent.

So what does Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 5 portend for the device market?

AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes wrote earlier today that the new iPhone will have “major implications throughout the personal electronics markets,” suggesting that existing LTE smartphones will come to be seen as “bulky and subpar” while stealing share not only from other smartphone makers, but also from PC makers like Dell and HP.

Hughes also cites J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskovitz in suggesting that the iPhone 5 “will offer better battery performance in a smaller form factor.”

In finding its way to new customers, Apple is also moving away from existing GPS service providers, and will instead transition to the new Maps application for iOS 6.

But will extended battery life and an Apple-owned GPS service be enough to lure loyal iPhone users to the new device, never mind Android loyalists happy with their current devices?

The answer to that question probably lies more in the emergence of new cloud and application offerings than the device characteristics themselves.

More interesting to me this past week, for example, was the report from The Wall Street Journal that Apple was looking to build its own streaming radio service, a move that seems to have helped drive Pandora’s share price down from a recent $12 high to just under $10.

Or consider the expectation Apple will introduce further synchronization between its iCloud offerings into the iOS mobile sphere, apps like Reminders, Notes, Mail, Calendar, and a new “Lost Mode,” which helps itinerant iPhone users find their lost phones.

I know I’ve found that Web-based services like Evernote and Remember the Milk, which synch across multiple devices and/or computers, provide much more utility than those dependent upon a single platform or device.

Whatever the details of the iPhone 5, the world will be watching closely, but my recommendation as one who’s used smartphones across the range of top competitors, including Apple, Android, and RIM, is to look beyond the device and underneath that larger intersection of IP-based services which transcend platform and help unearth the riches of true and unbound universal computing.

Google’s New “Jelly Bean”

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So did anybody else watch that Google I/O keynote earlier today from the Moscone Center in San Francisco?

Apparently, so, because at one point there were nearly 100,000 concurrent viewings on YouTube.

Yes, I said, 100,000.  Pretty impressive for a developer’s conference.

I’ll get to some of the key Android announcements momentarily…first, the show stealer, which for my money (and of which there’s not a whole lot), one-upped Apple’s keynotes in a way they’ll likely never be able to match.

As the team was preparing to introduce the much-discussed Google Glasses (which I hope, one day, I’ll be able to wear on the golf course and announce to my technophobe father exactly how many yards his shot is to the pin without missing a beat), Sergey Brin cut away to an airplane flying high over the skies of San Francisco, all featured in a Google Events Hangout.

I presumed the cutaway was Memorex, but soon found out differently.

The skydivers jumped from the plane, flew in their birdsuits a little ways, then opened their chutes and landed safely on a roof by or at the Moscone Center.

They delivered the Google Glasses to some manic BMX mountain bikers, who jumped a couple of roofs before handing them over to some dudes who were hanging by some ropes.

Before too long, they all came busting into the live keynote and up on the stage to deliver the glasses.

I’ll never think of my FedEx delivery guy the same again.

I guess everyone at Google Marketing and PR was pretty confident all their skydivers’ chutes would open and no Google Glasses were going to go splat along with their mules.  That, or they had a contingency plan to cutaway to poor voice-challenged CEO Larry Page trying to pick up the slack via ASL.

Like I said, the whole stunt got my attention.

There were a range of interesting announcements, including the Glasses (available to developers attending I/O sometime next year), the new Google streaming media player (Yawn), and Google’s own Nexus 7 (is that one step behind Windows8?) tablet.

But the new Android, 4.1, AKA “Jelly Bean,” was the storyline I found most interesting.

Google announced “Project Butter” as the new innovation in 4.1, which helps make transitions and animations in the Android OS run more smoothly (at a cool 60 frames per second).

Googlers also demonstrated more responsive widgets (I hate to wait on any mobile device app!), which users can drag and drop and move around on their home screen.

Android Heavens, open up and save me from thith mobile lag!

The Google voice recognition engine is now going offline, which means you can transcribe to your heart’s content without being connected to the Interwebs.

“Android, go beat up Siri and then send me some funny pics of such that I can view on my newfangled Android 4.1 home screen and share them via my non-lagging new Facebook app on Jelly Bean!”

The new “Google Now” was also a cool new feature, which allows you tor bring up new “cards” that contain relevant and timely information (“How tall is the Empire State Building?”).

If Trivial Pursuit ever makes a comeback, I want to play the Google Now-assisted edition!

Google Now also takes advantage of temporal and physical data it knows to make friendly suggestions to you.  For example, when it’s lunchtime, Google Now could suggest some local restaurants nearby and let you easily make reservations to go there.

I’d suggest you view the video below to learn more about Google Now, but despite my preference to stick with the Apple iPlatforms, me likey the new “Jelly Bean” and hope Apple responds with some similar features in a future iOS release.


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I’m not much of a DIYer.

I’d rather go out and buy a new something than try and fix an old something.

And I think it’s genetic.  The primary tools my father had in his garage while I was growing up were a driver and a three wood (golf clubs!).

But sometimes, one has no choice but to channel their inward Ben Franklin-ness because circumstance requires it.

One example: My beloved 55” Sony Bravia TV (which I bought way before the volume discounts kicked in, thank you very much) had a thermal fuse go out.  I knew inviting my friends from Sony to come fix it in my home was at least a $400 mission.

I did some research to find the heart of the problem, and found a Web post that generally explained how to replace the thermal fuse.  It wasn’t open heart surgery — but it wasn’t removing a cuticle, either.

One day, while the light was still good, and by following the instructions I found online (including very helpful pictures!), I had the TV in pieces in no time, the fuse replaced, and the cover back on, TV working, in about 90 minutes.

You’d have thought I had won the lottery, judging by the smile on my face.

Recently, I had a similar, if less dramatic, episode.  I hadn’t used my Acer Aspire Netbook in a while, but I’d recently moved my home office back upstairs so I thought the Acer would be a good “downstairs” computer (I know, I clearly have too many computers).

When I turned it on, I realized there was a problem.  Even though the battery indicator suggested the machine was charged, when I removed the AC power source, the computer died.


I immediately went online to look for a new, but cheap, replacement battery.  But as I entered the query “acer aspire one battery” and started glancing through the results, I saw links not only for replacement batteries, but for “fixes” for people having issues with the battery on that particular system.

Turns out, it was a long known and acknowledged problem, and it had a possible fix: Download the BIOS update onto a USB stick and reboot the machine with a special command.

Sounded easy enough.  And surprisingly, it was.  What took me about 5 minutes to research and implement saved me on the order of $30, along with shipping and handling, and also spared the planet the premature demise of a perfectly good laptop battery.

I checked the next morning, and the Acer battery (their 6 cell batteries are good for 6 hours or so!) was fully charged and raring to go.

More importantly, I got the satisfaction of solving a not-too-terribly-complex problem by doing a little investigating, and then following through.

Now if I could just find a similar article that would help me consolidate all my different iTunes libraries.

Written by turbotodd

February 7, 2012 at 10:07 pm

3D TPS Reports

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The Consumer Electronics Show officially kicked off in Vegas today.

Once again, if it happens in Vegas, at least for CES, it doesn’t stay there.

Which I guess is a good thing, although I’d have liked to have been there in person for once, and maybe even have done a little “Hangover” sightseeing amongst all the collective geekdom.

So far, it seems like CES this year around is all tablets, all the time, although I am absolutely digging these newfangled XpandD 3D glasses.

Though I don’t have a 3D TV yet (that’s another big focus emerging at the show, with ESPN 3D expected to start programming 24 hours of 3D content soon -– professional ping pong, anyone??!), I think it’s fashionable to start thinking now about your fashionista 3D lenses.

Kate Spade, are you listening?

XpanD’s new 3D shades allows for Bluetooth and/or USB connectivity to iPhone or Android devices, and according to its press release, “can be optimized to address the fact that every human’s eyes and facial structure are unique and that each user’s viewing requirements and environment are different.”

On second thought, I spent most of my life trying to figure out how NOT to wear glasses, until Michael Dell’s brother came along and saved me with his custom LASIK surgery.

Can’t they just come up with some 3D surgery that I can turn off and on at will for the 3D effect?

Yeah, kind of like former U.S. Vice President Cheney can do with his new artificial heart pump, which the former Veep had installed last summer.

The heart pump is known as a “ventricular assist device,” and pushes the blood continuously throughout the body in place of a normal heartbeat, according to CBS’s “The Early Show” Web site.

So, basically, they’re telling us Dick Cheney has no pulse?

And that’s supposed to be news??

Of course, Cheney might could see his near-heart beat with a set of those newfangled 3D glasses, although I’m thinking the ex Veep might forego the Kate Spade varieties for something more along the lines from Wrangler.

Well, no matter how many footballs YOU see coming at you on the big screen, know that Hollywood, along with the sports books in Vegas, are betting that we’ll all start moving into the third dimension and soon.

Me, I just worry about when the day comes that we all have to start consuming PowerPoint in 3D – seems to me there’s nothing more boring than sleeping through bullet points firmly ensconced in multiple dimensions.

Think “Office Space” meets “Inception.”

Life’s too short for 3D flare, I don’t care how many dream levels down you might be, and even Leonardo DeCaprio and Ellen Page couldn’t save us all from endless PowerPoints with psychedelic animations that said absolutely nothing.

Oh, and that overdue TPS report?

Don’t forget the cover sheet…you’re just dreaming you already turned it in.

Written by turbotodd

January 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm

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