Archive for the Tech tag

Mike

So many buttons! Which to choose?

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Now that Google’s +1 button is available I’ve got 4 buttons at the bottom of every post: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google. Why? I see the potential of each, I just don’t see any of my friends using them. I’m not just looking at my site here for that proof. I rarely see a friend liking anything on Facebook. I have very few friends even on Twitter, but they at least share links. Tumblr? Maybe I’m hopeful. It’s so easy to use, I think everyone should have one. It allows for the bit of creativity that Facebook lacks.

Now there is +1. Again, I see potential. However, it all lies in how Google ties it in to everything else. Will there be a stream with the +1’s of everyone that I follow? Will it be in my Buzz feed? Maybe the answer is already there, I just haven’t seen it yet.

The most linked that I get shared are via Google Reader. A total of 3 people share things that I get to see. It was my favorite way to share things. It’s quick. It gives you the option to comment. It just pops up in my Google Reader and I have the option to check it out at my leisure. Most of it is Facebook-like. The key differences: anyone can follow and, like I said, it says unread, it doesn’t vanish into the endless FB stream.

Mike

iPhone Home Screen – April 2011

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викI’m a bit obsessive when it comes to my home screen. It takes quite a lot to make the jump and break on to page 1. I wanted to start to see how it evolves, and also ask for feedback as to what you have on your home screen. Also, soon, I’ve found that I need to share what some of these apps are. Read It Later is at the top of that list.

The top row is the only thing that I don’t think has changed since I got my first iPhone (a 3G). Although that row includes some of my least used apps, but when I do need to use them, I like them to be readily available.

Like I said, share which apps you have on your home screen.

Mike

Am I the only one excited for the Mac App Store?

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I acknowledge this isn’t the sort of thing regular people get excited for. I was even more excited the other night when I saw the first Sandy Bridge review went up.

The Mac App Store was just too easy and an obvious move after the iOS App Store. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe no one else attempted this. While iOS is setup to only allow Apple’s App Store, the Mac would not be so limited. You have other options to get software other than the App Store. Even Android is open enough to allow for multiple stores. Anyone could have likely pulled together all the smaller developers and would have probably offered a better deal than Apple will. If it became popular enough, it probably could have gotten some bigger name publishers before Apple showed up.

It will make it easier for any app to get acknowledged. Just like in the current App Store. Currently I will see an app on a blog and then have to dig around their web site to find out more and buy it. When I need something now, I’ll just be able to search the App Store. Then check out the charts to see what is selling best and read reviews.

I’m curious how any protection will work. Do I no longer have to worry about serial numbers? Did the developers have to modify their code to work with the App Store authorization? I could probably look in to this stuff, but I’ll just wait the two days until I can see it in action.

The real reason I’m excited is that it’s likely iWork 11 will be released on the same day. I skipped the last version of iWork, so I’ve been anxious to get my hands on the new version.

Mike

Additional iPad Points

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There were two things I didn’t hear yesterday that I expected to hear more chatter about relating to the iPad. I didn’t get around to posting them last night. I saw them mentioned today, but not too widely.

Multitasking – This was talked about a lot, but as something that was left out and people were disgusted by it. No one seemed to even mention that maybe it just won’t be ready in time for launch.

This thing is apparently running iPhone OS 3.2. An entire new product, with all new versions of apps, and it doesn’t jump to 4.0? This seems very strange to me. iTunes has seemed to jump full version numbers for no particular reason.

This is also the first version. The first iPhone had no apps! I never used one but when I got my 3G, I couldn’t imagine what you did without apps. Notifications and MMS took forever, even after being announced. Just about everything, except for MMS has been made available on previous versions of the phone.

Speaking of Notifications and MMS, perhaps they are hesitant to pre-announce software features after those.

All of that make me think that there are a lot more updates to come, just maybe not until the summer.

Boy Genius Report had a story about this today.

Subsidies – AT&T was nice enough to offer a data plan without a contract? No mention of $175 off if you did get a contract? I thought that was strange.

This Mashable post brings up that point as well as the possibility that content creators may give discounts with subscriptions. The post also makes a very good point about how the iPad is for consumption of content, rather than creation. One of the reasons I discounted it as something I would need is because of that lack of content creation capability.

Mike

When did you first experience being online?

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I was probably in 2nd or 3rd grade. Over at Justin’s house. He had Prodigy. I’m pretty sure there weren’t even any graphics or pictures. I just remember being able to look up sports scores and standings. There may have even been sports trivia. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever, even though it wasn’t much more than I could see in the newspaper. What we really went on there for was to find NBA Jam cheat codes.

One summer, a few years later, I spent some time with my cousin in Virginia. My uncle did something with computers at work so they always had a random machine around. The one they had when I was there had a modem. My cousin and I wanted to get on the internet. They didn’t have AOL or anything. We assumed if you had a modem you could just dial up the internet. We didn’t know the number for the internet. We may have looked in the phone book. We were unsuccessful. No surprise. I just love the thought of me asking, ‘What’s the phone number for the internet?’

It wasn’t until I was 13 and had my first job that I actually got online for myself. I had my job at the field and I saved up so I could buy myself a computer and then paid for AOL (and I assume a 2nd phone line shortly after that). It took some convincing for my mom to let me get AOL, she didn’t understand why anyone would need it. It’s hard to believe that my family didn’t have broadband at the house until after I left for college. How did anything get done on dial-up?

Mike

iPad, for me?

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This is my obligatory iPad post. I decided to look at it by finding some reasons someone like me might want one.

If I read more books I would choose an iPad over a Kindle. I assume the iPad will have all the features of the Kindle. I assume they will be releasing an iBooks app for the iPhone that will allow syncing of purchases and where you are in the books. At least this announcement will keep me from making an impulse buy of a Kindle that I don’t really need.

If I didn’t have my MacBook I would consider this for surfing on the couch. However, I use my MacBook the same way I use a desktop. I do a lot of things that require a lot of typing. Editing code on the iPad doesn’t seem like it would be a whole lot of fun.

If I had a kitchen in a large house (and if I spent a lot of time in that kitchen) this would be handy for quick surfing, calendar, contacts, iTunes. Really, exactly the things they are marketing it to be best at.

If I didn’t live close to home. My favorite demo of the bunch was from mlb.com. Having the screen to show mlb.tv would be spectacular. Why would I have to move away? Because I’m in the blackout area, so I wouldn’t be able to watch Phillies games on it. I really would get this just for that purpose. Set it up on an end table with the game on every night. Sure, I’d use the other features, but they’d just be bonus features that came with my PhilliesPad. Imagine if it came in team colors.

If I traveled a lot this would be great for plane rides. Watching movies, having my tunes, surfing in the hotel. Especially if I had a work laptop with me this would be useful. Last time I traveled for work I really wanted my MacBook with me. Getting 2 laptops through security wasn’t an issue. It was that I was holding up the line having another awkward item to take out of and get back in a bag.

If I took the train to work I would not be debating whether to buy or not right now. I’d be debating how much storage I wanted on my 3G enabled iPad. There are iPhone apps that I have said I’d get if I took the train. The Crosswords app for one, which I did finally buy a few weeks ago.

I’m not getting one but $499 is a tempting price. Although I’d probably want to get a 3G one in the likely case that at some point I’d want the service. That bumps the price up and along with the monthly fee, it puts is out of ‘Hey, that looks like fun to play with’ range. I’m really hoping someone I know gets one so I can play with it. I feel like I can let myself play with one. I didn’t touch the 1st iPhone until a few months before the 3G came out. I knew I’d love the iPhone but it was stupid to get one without 3G.

Mike

New Toy: iPhone 3GS

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I have a bit of a gadget problem. I get lots of them and always tell myself that I will write a bit about them after I spend some time with them. Of course, time gets away and I never get back to talking about my latest toy. I also get distracted because a new gadget usually come along fairly quickly.

Yesterday I logged in to check on my phone upgrade options. For some reason I’ve been doing this almost daily for the past month even though it always told me 12/31. I was shocked yesterday when I logged on to find that there was no longer a date listed and I was eligible. I thought maybe they were kind enough to build in the shipping buffer. That made me a little worried about going in to the store and getting the same deal. Luckily enough, the mall is only a few minutes away. In store I was also eligible. Upgrading was painless.

I’ve been debating what phone to get for a while now. The iPhone 3G I have is painfully slow. The processor just can’t handle the running of the phone. The keyboard seems to anger it at times. I knew that upgrading to the 3GS would give me a processor boost but not a whole lot else. The compass would be nice on occasion when trying to use the maps in a city. Video recording isn’t that important, I rarely use the camera. So essentially I wouldn’t be getting the exact same thing, only faster. A Blackberry would be something completely different. I tried the new Blackberry in the store and while it is really nice I felt like I’d wind up preferring the interaction with the iPhone.

The other problem is that AT&T is not reliable in my apartment (Verizon doesn’t work either). I debated T-Mobile because the new Blackberry supported UMA. Meaning I could use Wi-Fi for calls inside. AT&T’s Microcell will be out someday. Plus, I would have had to pay the ETF for canceling AT&T 6 months early. I also wasn’t sure about T-Mobile, I know what I have with AT&T, which is very reliable when out of my apartment.

I decided I was going to stick to the iPhone. It really does everything I need it to. People were shocked that I didn’t talk about the 3G much after I bought it. That was mostly because it was exactly what I wanted. It didn’t change my life, it just did what I had been looking for. It also plays nicely with my Mac: iTunes and Contacts most specifically.

All I was left with was the hesitation that there will be another new iPhone this summer with some unknown feature that I will drool over. But even if it comes out in June. The slowness of the 3G will continue to drive me nuts. If it’s really that groundbreaking I’ll sell one of the other iPhones and pay the full price for the new one.

Having the 3GS for about a day now, I’ve learned that this is the iPhone that should have been released in the 1st place. The 1st iPhone didn’t make any sense because it didn’t have 3G. The 2nd iPhone’s processor couldn’t keep up with itself. The 3GS feels solid and responds right away when I tell it to do something.

Nice extras: The battery % indicator is a nice plus. The Wi-Fi seems to connect a whole lot faster, which is key when using the phone when I don’t have a decent signal. The stats on the Apple site indicate that the Wi-Fi is also more power efficient. I’m hoping that it adds just a little bit more life so I don’t get stressed as often when it’s about to run out (the % indicator will help with that as well). I also get another charger and I’ve yet to try the new headphones.

As for the old 3G, I’m not sure where that will fit in just yet. I may use it around, not sure how yet. I am a little concerned that since they look exactly the same I may leave the house with the one that I can’t use as a phone. It will likely stick around until someone in the family decides they want to pay for iPhone service.

Mike

Hulu Desktop

Mike, Tech No Comment

I’ve had Hulu Desktop on my machine probably since it came out a while back but never really used it. They haven’t really figured out a good way to navigate around all the content they have. It is designed to be able to be used with just a remote, but you quickly get lost in layer and layer of menus.

So why did I try it out tonight?

I have my MacBook hooked up to a 20″ LCD. It sits on my desk, closed unless I take it for a trip. I decided tonight that I wanted to watch Hulu on the MacBook screen while I do stuff on the LCD. It kind of works but the Hulu video is always so small. I attempted to put it in full screen on the MacBook. It works if you have no desire to do anything else with the computer. As soon as I click anything on the monitor it jumps out of full screen mode. With dual monitor setups becoming more and more common I can’t believe this simple feature hasn’t been figured out.

I remembered having Hulu Desktop around and figured I’d give it a shot. It doesn’t solve the full screen issue but comes pretty close. The video fits to the window and you can resize the window. So I have the window maximized, which is 95% as good as full screen. It also solves some of my other issues with Hulu, such as always having to select 480p and it shows the buffer without having to pause.

Now that I’m aware of this I think Hulu Desktop will be how I Hulu. I just haven’t found how to get embed code from inside the application. After using it, hopefully I’ll get used to the interface and see what the designers were going for.

Update: Actually fullscreen does work for Hulu Desktop. I just had to find it.

Mike

ABCs of Firefox

Mike, Tech No Comment

My favorite feature of Firefox 3 (I think that’s when it was added) is the Awesome Bar. It searches your history based on what you type in, instead of just matching the beginning of previous URLs. I was curious what the Awesome Bar would point me to for each letter. Here’s the list:

A – Amazon
B – Borderline Fantastic
C – Crutchfield
D – Google Docs
E – ESPN
F – Facebook
G – Penn State Sports
H – Hulu
I – Ice Cream Helmet
J – Joystiq
K – Kentucky Derby
L – last.fm
M – MLB.com
N – NHL.com
O – Orbitcast
P – Phillies
Q – Game FAQs
R – Rotten Tomatoes
S – Star Tribune
T – Twitter
U – Uni Watch
V – Verizon Fios
W – Wikipedia
X – Random things like Amazon items with x in the URL
Y – YouTube
Z – Zillow

Not too many surprises. I was shocked by S. You’d think there would be a ton of S-sites. I wouldn’t ever pick the Star Tribune. It’s likely on there because I went there a lot for news on the Senate election.

Mike

XBox 360 and Connect360

Mike, Tech, Video Games No Comment

I’ve had the XBox 360 for a while. In fact, I’ve got all 3 systems now. Although I don’t own any games for the PS3, just played a few demos. The PS3 is just for my Blu-Ray needs.

The XBox 360 was an impulse buy after I saw it at someone’s house and Madden just looked spectacular in HD. That, along with the network connectivity has made it my favorite out of the bunch. The Wii is more fun with a crowd, but the XBox wins when I just want to blow stuff up.

I tried hooking the XBox up to the network to watch videos from my computer a few times since I’ve had it. Never with much success. The photo and music streaming worked just fine, but that doesn’t really interest me.

This past week I had a lot of videos that I wanted to try and stream so I could watch them on TV. I had my fingers crossed that the NXE update might have worked out some of the issues that held me back previously. I’m not sure if it’s the videos I have are just better suited or if the update really did fix things. The videos look great and fill the widescreen nicely. It also has had no issues resuming from the spot I was previously at.

I have a Mac, so I have to use Connect360 to get the XBox to see my files. It took next to no effort to get working. The trial let’s you share 5 video files to the XBox. It’s only $20. If I find that I’m still using this next week, which is likely, I’m going to purchase it.

Mike

The Story of My New MacBook

Tech No Comment

The old MacBook was just over 2 years old. My usual update schedule is 2 years but that was when building my own average spec’d Windows machine. With Macs, if you buy right after a refresh, the specs are just about top of the line. The machine was starting to slow down, but not dramatically. The real need for the replacement was my hard drive filling up and the new model MacBook looking to offer quite a bit.

Things I wanted in the new MacBook
250gb Hard Drive – The old MacBook’s hard drive was 160gb. I had it upgraded at time of purchase from Apple. With a Windows partition, it cut the size down even more. Now with a 250gb drive my main concern is that my 320gb external is not going to be enough for Time Machine and some decent amount of backup space.

Backlit Keys – I usually use my MacBook as a desktop machine. Meaning it’s connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. A few months ago I started using it more as an actual laptop. It was pretty nice but it really bothered me that I couldn’t see the keys.

Better Video Card – Not that I game but just the OSX animations need something decent to run. My only concern is the shared 256mb that comes out of my 2gb of RAM. I think it will be fine for now, I will likely upgrade the RAM once the DDR3 sticks come down a bit in price.

Things Lost with the New MacBook
FireWire – I used FireWire for my external hard drive. It has the option for USB, so not a huge deal. I also used FireWire for my video camera. This could be a pain but I’m not sure the camera still works. If I have to, I will use one of the old Macs with FireWire around the house.

I didn’t go with a MacBook Pro because I thought it might be a little larger than I wanted. I thought my MacBook screen was a little small. I compared it to my HP Laptop, which is the perfect size. I had always thought the HP was 15″. Turns out, I was wrong. It was 14″. I don’t know of many 14″ laptops so I’ve excused my stupidity. I think my feeling that the MacBook was took small when it is almost the same size as my HP comes down to what I use it for. On my HP I’m using a web browser 98% of the time. On the MacBook I was trying to use it just like I do on my 20″ widescreen monitor. Obviously that’s going to be different.

I ordered the MacBook from Amazon, their deal was the best I saw from a place I knew I could trust. The free shipping took about as long as it would have from Apple. Fast shipping from China (Apple) vs Slow shipping from Maryland (Amazon). I also didn’t need to customize, which I could have only done with Apple. If the prices were the same I likely would have ordered from Apple and upgraded the RAM, but in a few months it will still be cheaper to have ordered from Amazon and buying the RAM and putting it in myself.

I opened it up and started with the Migration Assistant. This was my first experience using the tool. All I had to do was connected an Ethernet cable between the 2 MacBooks. Then it went on its way transferring about 120gb. It took a little more than 3 hours to complete the process. Easy enough. I was then presented with a registration screen. As I typed in my email address, I came across a problem. The O key didn’t feel right when I was typing in .com. It felt like it was stuck. Thanks to the backlit keyboard, I was able to see a piece of plastic under the key keeping it from being pressed down normally like the others.

I was upset that I hadn’t realized the problem before spending the 3 hours waiting for everything to copy to the new machine. It only took clicks to do that process, I didn’t have to use the keyboard at all. Since it would be going back somewhere I had to clear the hard drive and reinstall OSX.

I gave my first ever call to Apple Tech Support. I expected to just be told to go deal with Amazon, but I’ve heard stories of Apple having excellent Tech Support, so I figured I’d at least give it a shot. I was given 2 options: return to Amazon for a new replacement or return to Apple to be repaired. Since it was the 1st day with the machine I knew I wanted a new machine. Before hanging up I asked for a case number in case Amazon was too much of a hassle and I decided I wanted to do the repair. As he was typing in the description of the problem he told me something popped up on his screen and he put me on hold. When he came back he said I was being transferred to a specialist.

When I first got to the specialist I described my problem again, but it didn’t seem like it was going any differently than the previous rep. I figured I would still be calling Amazon. Then he explained to me that this broken key issue was a problem Apple was investigating so they wanted my machine to take a look at it. I was given 2 options: repair or replacement from Apple. The replacement would take a few more days, which doesn’t seem to make sense. My only guess is that they’d rather repair so they need some difference to get some people to opt for the repair. I went with the replacement but then I asked if I could speed things up by going to the Apple Store. At the very least I figured they would handle the shipping back to Apple and then I would wait for my new unit. I was told that would be just fine and (as I was hoping) if they had any in stock I would given a replacement in the store. Score! I scheduled a Genius Bar appointment for early Saturday morning.

I chose an early Genius Bar time because the Apple Store is always a zoo and the mall this time of year would make things exponentially more ridiculous. When I got the the mall the Apple Store was already a little busy and getting crowded by the time I left.

I got to my Genius and he took a look at the machine. He was perplexed when he tried and the key seemed to work alright to him. I was getting a little nervous that this was actually a problem and I didn’t tend to make up problems just so I could take a trip to the Apple Store. The fact that the key might be fine now was not at all shocking since I had hit the key a few times trying to get it to work originally and now I’ve put it back in the box and transported it to the store. If the bused piece wasn’t in the way, they key might work fine forever. But knowing it was busted in some way, I wanted it replaced. After some more attempts he finally noticed the problem. He had to fill out some stuff on his computer and find a manger. Then I was given a brand new MacBook and sent on my way.

After getting it home the first thing I did was play with all the keys. I almost asked to do that in the store. The keys were fine so I initiated the migration again and anxiously waited the 3+ hours.

So far the machine has been just fine. I haven’t done anything all that intense. I have hard drive space and flash videos don’t seem as choppy.

My lesson from all of this is that Apple does indeed have solid Tech Support. I may even consider AppleCare for this machine ($199 at Amazon doesn’t seem terrible). My tip for any dealings with them is to have a ticket created. If I wouldn’t have asked for that, I’m not sure it would have been flagged and I’d be waiting to get my new machine for another week or two.