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PDAs, cell phones, laptops(?) and other portable items.

Written By: Gary on March 31, 2010 No Comment

It’s a beautiful day out. So instead of sitting in the house on this great day, I went for a bike ride and I’m sitting outside the library. They’ve got WiFi and it actually reaches outside pretty good.

The problem is the sun is really making it hard to see my screen. I could sit in the shade but then I’m not in the sun (I might as well as be at home). My XO laptop had this great LCD display that actually worked better in direct sunlight than it did in indirect sunlight. It has a color display but in the direct sunlight it washed out all the color leaving a very clear greyscale image. (I think it might have two different types of LCD displays sandwiched together.)

I’d like some kind of a high contrast display for my laptop that worked like that one (that wouldn’t get washed out in the sun). It’s just to get information typed in, it doesn’t need to be pretty ,have a fast refresh or anything. It’s got a clip at the top theat just rests on my current laptop display (the top edge of it could be a spall solar panel to help with power) and it’d plug into the video port on my laptop and the USB for some power.

Here’s a quick video to show you the quality of the display of the XO Laptop. It’s a little out of focus at times because I’ve got macro on and I keep moving the camera.

Watch a larger version of this video in YouTube.

If the XO didn’t have such a crappy keyboard, I’d be tempted to use it outside and use VNC to remotely access the display on my MacBook. But then I’d have to haul to computers around with me.

Anyone have any suggestions for something like this?

Written By: Gary on March 7, 2010 No Comment

How could you not want one of these? The ad makes it feels like it’s something out of Star Trek and that’s before they run the Star Trek movie promo clip!!

Direct link to the Apple iPad commercial. hands_pad.jpg

Actually, I think I’ll pass this time around. I’d ditch my iPhone if it were a phone, but really don’t need another device to carry around and I have a laptop. To get the GPS it sounds like you need the 3G card (otherwise it just uses the WiFi for an estimate). And it doesn’t have a camera of any sort. Yet…

Written By: Gary on December 4, 2009 One Comment

The iPhone eats battery power. The more you use it the more it eats. As a result, the more you use it the unhappier you get when it dies.

Maximal Power External Battery for i-Phone, i-Phone 3G, and Ipods (Black) Maximal PowerSo I picked up this 1900mAh external battery and it was a great investment.

I keep it in my bag and it’s great when I need it. It’s not just powering your phone, it’s charging it! So once you remove it from the phone, it’s been charging your phone in the meantime.

Honestly, it doesn’t snap on very well, so it’ll fall off if you place it in a jacket or suit pocket and aren’t careful, but it won’t fall off if you’re using it for most non-gaming applications. It seems to fits well with my Seidio case (review).

For $14 (at Amazon), this is the best stocking stuffer you could get the iPhone enthusiast in your life (or iPod Touch or any iPod device I guess); if only it came in colors!

It always seems to have a charge whenever I need it. Although it’s rare more than a few weeks go by when I need it.

It you plug in the battery into a charger and the iPhone into the battery it’ll charge both. This brings me to my biggest complaint: I wish that when it was on the phone and plugged into the sync cable it’d charge both devices and pass through the data so I could sync at the same time.

This works with the current Amazon bonus of $5 worth of MP3 downloads with purchase (I think this is good only once per cart, not for multiple items in the same cart).

Written By: Gary on December 1, 2009 No Comment

So Fring lets you do video calls via their Skype connection. The software is free so it’s worth trying out.

iPhone_video-fring.jpg
The problem is you can only receive video. They say it’s because the iPhone doesn’t have a camera on the front, but I’d rather send video to the other person. I’ve got the portable device, I’m probably somewhere more interesting then they are, right? (Unless they are on their phone too).

I could still be filming where I am while watching their face (or whatever their camera is pointed at) so it seems silly to me. Or send my video when I’m talking (and vice-versa).

The other downside is that it only works over over WiFi, not cellular (no surprise there) another reason to consider a MiFi instead of paying AT&T for tethering.

Here’s the direct link.

Two other things:
If Apple has the API open, it seems like they could check the sensor that detects if the phone is near or away from you (the one that checks if the phone is by your face and turns the screen off) and figure if the camera is facing you or away.

The Fring App uses my BlueTooth headset (which also does A2DP) for sound effects but when a call starts it only uses the regular phone part.

Written By: Gary on November 27, 2009 One Comment

So I tried out CoPilot Live North America GPS turn-by-turn software. First off let me point out it’s on sale for $24.99 through December (and then it goes back to $34.99) and it appears to include free quarterly updates (with no time limits listed as of today). Secondly please note that North America is defined as USA and Canada. FYI, if you don’t have an iPhone and you’re hoping to get one for the holidays, buy it now! It should work later just fine (at least all the sale and free apps I bought before I purchased worked fine.

copilotapproad.jpg

It’s awesome! You can use it in spoken turn-by-turn mode with or without the street names, only one voice (Frank) does the full street names, but I don’t like that on GPS devices (I get long names like “turn right at next exit Grand River / US-5 / 10 mile road”) and it’s too long for my attention span so I use Lisa (or John). In short mode I think it should speak the highway exit numbers though, it actually sounds truncated the way they do it.

It’s really easy to pick addresses from your address book and save as favorites, it did give me a little problem with my home address the way I had it in my address book but not any of my others (I’m not sure why). If you’re typing in an address it’ll let you use zip codes which I like. You can also search by business name (such as Detroit Science Center) and it’ll add to favorites or even make a call for you. It’ll also show routing for cars, walking or biking. It’ll let you play back your tracks, which would be great for hiking but this has got to eat your battery though.

copilotappsettings.jpg

My biggest complaint is that while it integrates the iPod player into the application, it doesn’t pause the iPod part of the iPhone when it’s speaking; but this is listed as one of the next upcoming features. My second biggest complaint, is that sometimes I don’t feel like they followed iPhone interface guidelines and you have to think sometimes when picking out and typing things (mostly in the search areas).

The 2D maps will let you pinch / zoom like many iPhone map programs will. And it works in landscape or portrait modes. While I like portrait better, the fonts of turns show up bigger in landscape.

It’ll give you live weather for where you are too!

It’s probably the biggest app I have, it’s 1.3 GB, that’s a 1/12 of your 16 GB phone! You can get more info here: http://www.copilotlive.com/iphone/

CoPilot Live North America

Bottom line: If you don’t have a turn-by-turn GPS for $34.99 this is a great deal. For the $19.99 sale price (for only a few days) it’s an even better bargain.

Accessories: I’d recommend a car charger or external battery to charge your phone when walking or biking.

Written By: Gary on October 24, 2009 No Comment

I shot, edited (titles and transitions) and uploaded this video from my iPhone. I used ReelDirector for the editing. This is my first attempt but it was way easy to use. reeldirectorvideoThe video was shot on the iPhone, edited on the iPhone and e-mailed to YouTube for uploading. It’s five short stiched-together videos (which I was able to trim when I imported them) with some text at the beginning and end. I used the same transition (blur) for all the transitions since it was easy to use (you can customize this per transition). You can rearrange the videos once they are in there, but I pretty much picked them in the order that I wanted them in.

This is from the balloon festival from a few months ago. The first speaker is me talking as I shot it. The rest is whatever voiceover was going on at the time. Nothing fancy at all.



Direct link to the video is here.

I didn’t time it, but I’d guess it was about three or four minutes (on the iPhone 3gs 3.01 OS) to stitch and build the one minute video. My biggest complaint is I couldn’t extend the time for the titles and credits and the time is too short). I also wish I could have inserted some photos too (but then there wouldn’t have been audio behind it). The strangest thing was that it didn’t save the video back to the phone, I didn’t see any way to get it out of the program other than e-mailing it to myself (or YouTube) but that worked fine (the iTunes page says this works in 3.1). it’s very cool software but it’s a little pricy at $7.99 for $3.99 (since iMovie came out); I used an iTunes gift card that I got last month for my birthday which made the (old $7.99 price) a bit more digestible…

Written By: Gary on September 24, 2009 One Comment

What I don’t like about my Bluetooth earpiece for my iPhone is that it only streams audio from the phone calls. Why Apple (all cell makers) don’t let you use BT audio from other parts of your phone, I don’t understand. I have a pair of semi-bulky BlueTooth stereo headphones that and they stream the iPod music, podcasts, sound effects from games, and everything (but they’re bulky). My normal bluetooth earpiece just fits in my shirt pocket for when I’m not using it so I rather use that. The trick is to find an earpiece that supports A2DP.

Plantronics Voyager 855 Bluetooth Headset (Black) PlantronicsI decided on the Plantronics Voyager 855 Bluetooth Headset for three reasons: they were inexpensive, I’ve had good experience with Plantronics in the past and they came with a second earbud (earplug?) for your other ear if you want stereo sound.

So now I can listen to podcasts or news (or whatever) while waiting for something (doctor appointment, a movie to start, anything) without having to cover both ears (and not have to carry anything big around to do it). The same goes for videos or watching YouTube. Or if I’m playing a game I’ll still get sound, it’s nice to have audio feedback even for simple puzzle games, but especially for puzzle games. Your device must support A2DP for audio other than phone calls.

I think my main uses for this will be phone calls, listening to audio (books, The Economist and podcasts, streaming some radio) and some games. I can walk pretty far from the phone when listening, when I head upstairs (most amount of wall/stairs interference) it cuts out a little, but once I’m upstairs it still sounds great.

I think I’ll rarely plug in the second earpiece but I’ll keep it in my computer bag just in case. It’d be great if I knew I was going to be somewhere loud, but it might be too loud for them to hear me. Obviously I can use these for music, but I rarely listen to music via headphones, I generally listen to music at home or in the car, but I guess I now have the option (sort of).

The packaging was very nice, I couldn’t believe these were a $35 from from the box. In the box was a nice manual, not some teeny tiny thing that you’ll never find again. The BT headset, a nice carrying bag, two ear loops, 3 different pairs of ear gels (plus a weird pair foam ear pieces), a wall plug charger and some weird strap (unidentified in the manual) to dangle it from your neck (like a neckless, I guess).

So this BT headset gets a two thumbs up from me. No real minuses on the headset at all, but this is my first few hours of use and I really enjoy them so far.

I’ll probably do a follow-up in a few days, so if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Written By: Gary on September 21, 2009 4 Comments

Replace my laptop? Not a chance! But the more I use it…

Previously I took my laptop everywhere. The iPhone has easily cut out 20%-25% of my dragging around a laptop; my rule is generally don’t leave home without it.

With my iPhone, I’m still connected to the world. I can read, I can forward and I can bookmark things and type (if I have to), it’s more than the basics. Of course I can watch and listen to all the “stuff” that’s on the iPod portion of the iPhone too. If I could get a bluetooth keyboard (or even a wired keyboard the plugs into the dock) I think I could drop carrying the computer around to 50% of what I used to do. I don’t really want to JailBreak my phone to do this. (FYI, this feature is now is iOS 4 for several iPhone models)

apple-bt-iphone-keyboard.jpg
This keyboad looks huge, but it’s really the tiny wireless one from Apple.

I don’t even need the keyboard to work in all the applications (although I’d like it), I can just type in a special keyboard application then copy and paste into the program where I need the information.

I’d need an external battery pack for the iPhone though. I thought I’d already need to, but I generally leave it in the charger at home and I charge it in the car. It’s pretty rare that I notice that I’m running really low.

It’s been a while now that I’ve had the iPhone, but it’s still a new toy so I use it a lot but it’s pretty rare when I “need” to bring laptop along. The laptop is mostly just for typing these days.

Photo from Geeky-Gadgets and the linked page has a video of this working on the JailBroken iPhone…

Written By: Gary on September 11, 2009 No Comment

image650862516.jpgI can be anywhere in the country and watch the space shuttle land live on my phone. It amazes me every day.

I can’t imagine what the next few years will bring :)

PS – I’m writing and posting this from my phone after capturing the image while watching it live!!!

Written By: Gary on September 10, 2009 No Comment

So if you have any older iPod or iPhone accessories or chargers many of they don’t charge properly. I’m not sure what they changed but it’s a pain when it’s a nice speaker dock or your car stereo won’t charge our battery (and instead drains the battery).

Enter the Scosche Charging Adapter for iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 2G and iPod nano 4G! This device plugs in between the cable and you iPod of iPhone. I plug my iPhone into the adaptor and then into the cable in the car and now I can listen and charge my iPhone. So I can actually stream audio over the air (network) and pipe it straight into my stereo in my car, it’s awesome!

I’ve picked up the adaptor for $24.99 at Amazon. They also make an adaptor that plugs into some docks/stands that does the same type of thing (available in black or white).

It was well worth it for me, I think my car stereo is less than 18 months old so I didn’t need a new one and they’d probably have charged me at least $50 labor just to run a new cable (assuming Alpine even makes one for my stereo, which I couldn’t find). So this was a no-brainer.

If it’s a short ride and I’m just listening to the iPhone via the iPod application then I don’t use the adaptor so that I’m not just charging for only few minutes. I try not to charge my phone (or any device) if I’m really not going to need it, the iPhone is probably only good for a certainĀ amount of charges so I try not to waste the number of charges.

FYI – In my experience plugging the Scosche adaptor into the iPhone first before the other device works better; otherwise (at least my car stereo) sees it as 1/2 an iPhone and gets confused.

Written By: Gary on July 12, 2009 One Comment

Apple iPhone 3G Holster Clip BoxWave CorporationSo I have a holster for my iPhone that looks like this (I think it’s this same case with different branding). And it’s a great case! It’s plastic and holds the phone in just perfect, the clip at the top keeps the phone from bouncing out (the clip is important to me). But it’s got the screen exposed…

What I want is for the iPhone to face inward, to protect the screen. That’s what I had for my 755p and I really liked that. Any suggestions?

I’ve only found one and it doesn’t look like it has a clip at the top, not sure how it rotates without phone falling out.

Honestly, I’m tempted to get a heat gun and make it a little bigger at the bottom so it’ll fit face forward. I just don’t know how much more fragile that will make the plastic. Plus, there isn’t anything soft on the plastic to protect the screen.

UPDATE: This is the Seidio iPhone case and clip that I got.

Written By: Gary on June 21, 2009 No Comment

I’ve had a few people just happy that the iPhone phone dropped to $99 (for 8GB) and are tempted to get that instead of the $199 model with more features (and 16 GB). They want to know if it’s really worth the $100 more.

Here’s why it’s worth it (and I’m not even going to point out the things that you think I will):
3gornor3g.pngJust a few weeks ago there was $100 difference between the $199 (8 GB) and $299 (16 GB) iPhone 3g models and the only difference was 8GB of storage. Right now the $99 model is 8 GB and $199 is 16 GB so it’s the same $99 for 8 GB. The 8 GB iPod Touch (it’s an iPhone with no phone, no GPS, no camera, no microphone and lots of other stuff too) is $229 and you don’t get much at all! Here’s my countdown list on why to get the 3gs, please note that compass, video and better photos are the last three reasons, not the top three. This list is really for those who are making a purchase that think they don’t want the compass or better camera w/ video; this is not a reason to upgrade from the iPhone 3g, that’s expensive.

Here’s everything between the $99 iPhone 3g and the iPhone $199 3gs:

  • 8 GB of storage (flash) memory – twice as much storage memory for apps and videos and music and audiobooks.
  • 256 MB of RAM – twice as much memory for applications to run in (more efficiently which makes it seem faster).
  • Faster Processor – The main processor is 50% faster and a faster graphics chip, Apple says this gives you up to twice the speed.
  • Better battery life – For just about everything but phone calls and 3g network use.
  • Faster network – This will utilize AT&T’s faster network (once it gets installed) which should improve battery life according to Apple.
  • Oleophobic coating on screen – more fingerprint resistant (geeky oleophobic details from Bill Nye
  • Photos – 3.2 MP with tap to focus (instead of 2 MP).
  • Video Recording – This is new, not on the other models. You can directly upload to YouTube, MobileMe and (I assume) email to someone.
  • Compass – Maps will orient the right way and I think people will come out with some cool applications utilizing this. I think thinking astronomy applications first, point at the sky and it identifies what you are viewing and offers links to more information or you ask it for a star or planet and it points it out for you (I predict this won’t take long at all, scroll down on this page to see this for G1); maybe even point out satellites as they travel across the sky. Then I’m counting on being at a national park or a big city and point my phone at something and it will supply all sorts of information about that landmark. See this page for a sample tourist image or imagine this (see video) but overlaid on top of live images of where you are. Or this interactive view of Wimbeldon.

Did I leave anything out? How far did you have to go down the list before you decided it was worth $99?

The first four are really the biggest value: Twice the storage, twice the memory (this will help), faster processor and better battery life!

Notes: I do understand that Apple is only charging $100 for 16 GB more memory in the $299, but since you don’t want to spend that much, we’re really not going go there.

Written By: Gary on June 9, 2009 2 Comments

mms3.pngMost of the iPhone OS 3.0 features aren’t anything new, they were announced months ago. So much of yesterday’s keynote dealing with the iPhone was not a surprise. What was a surprise was how stupid that AT&T looked when they weren’t ready for tethering or MMS!

I think 29 countries are ready for MMS but not AT&T in the United States and 22 countries are ready for tethering but not AT&T in the United States. What does this say about contracts and exclusivity with they way they are marketing this phone? If some other carriers had this phone they’d be selling like hot cakes as people would be trying to get away from AT&T…

tether3.pngPersonally, I don’t see me ever using the MMS (especially if it costs more), I just send my attachments as an e-mail. But the tethering is what’s holding me up from getting the iPhone.

FYI, when the 3.0 beta came out, it had the tethering in it and some people were able to turn it on, so this works. It’s just a matter of AT&T selling it to the customers.

Written By: Gary on May 22, 2009 No Comment

Assuming we get new iPhones at the WWDC in early June, I’ve got a few guesses. June 9th is when it’s assumed Apple will release the new 3.0 Operating System and announce (or release new phones). I think the upgrade is supposed to be free for iPhone users but not for the iPod touch users; I find this completely bizzaro since I think you’ll need it to purchase applications, so Apple is cutting out their market of potential iTunes App sales.

Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation) Apple ComputerThey could just announce new phones, but people’s contracts are running out so I assume they’ll have something to release or announce with product in the next few months (there are July 17 rumors too, but it could just be the same rumor re-tweeted over and over). I’m just talking about features for the physical phone, the software has been out in beta and I don’t think there will be too many surprises there.

1) I think we’ll get a new phone with a new camera. It’s never had the best camera and rumors say Apple has been buying 3 MP and 5 MP chips. I’d really hope it’s the 5 MP as the main camera, but sadly I’m not sure what else they’d use the 3 MP chips in. I’m assuming this would also allow you to record video. But 3 MP is pretty low when you consider the quality of everything else that goes into the iPhone.
2) I’d love it to have two cameras, one on the back and one of the front for video-conferencing. I don’t think we’ll get that with this refresh (maybe on ‘the iTablet’?), but if they offer it, I definitely pick up that model.
3) I think they’ll start offering an iPhone with more memory, they’ve had more memory in the iPod Touch (up to 32 GB v.s up to 16 GB)for a while so this is a no brainer (IMHO). But will they stop at 32 GB or go all the way to 64 GB?

Other stuff:
Lots of rumors on a faster processor and if Apple wants to make this a gaming machine it needs a little more power. Rumors indicate faster chip purchases, but these could be for ‘the tablet’, but then again maybe they need it for the rumored video recording capabilities.

Apple iPod touch 32 GB (2nd Generation) Apple ComputerI feel if Apple starts releasing very different model iPhones, people will start getting confused on which models to get. So far the only difference has been color (do they still make the white?) and storage. If they try keeping a cheaper model with less features, a mid-range with with a better (or two) cameras and another with faster processor will just confuse the masses. Even more confusing if each higher step doesn’t include every feature of the “lower” models. Nothing says “don’t buy” more than confusion between models.

And speaking of the iTablet, which I think will be more of big iPhone/iTouch than a low power tablet or netbook computer, I’m not sure why the iTablet would need a better camera than the iPhone (I’m really hung up on the 3 MP / 5 MP chip rumors). I’d like the tablet to have to ability to be a phone to use my SIM chip from my iPhone for data. They better not release a tablet with a phone from a competing company so I need to buy another plan for wireless data for this other device.

So I’m ready to transition to the iPhone, I’ve been playing with the iTouch (yes, I know it’s an iPod Touch) for a few months and I need the data “on” all the time. As long as they announce a way to tether my laptop to the Internet via the phone, I’m in!

Written By: Gary on May 12, 2009 One Comment

I got way overwhelmed with my RSS feeds, I’ve got gobs of them (almost 300). Many of those feeds don’t get updated more that once a month (if ever) so they really don’t impact the list, but a dozen or so update 2-4 times a day. Plus, I recently added everyone coming to WordCamp Chicago (list of attendees) another 100 or so feeds; I’ll prune that down later.

I’ve been over a 1000+ unread items for ages and even when it gets back to 700-800 it just jumps back up! Lately , no matter what I do, I can’t even get it under 1000, so I cleared out all my posts. And started over…

THey really need a way to click a button to ‘mark all posts older than __ days as read’ and that would help with when it gets full.

Hopefully I’ll do better catching up in the future.

I’ve got the feeds syncing with my iPod Touch (but if I’m not of WiFi there are no images, which makes some feeds useless) so maybe that will help. I use Doppler (you can try Doppler Lite for free).

I’m really looking for an off-line Google Reader the includes the images for off-line viewing, any tips? Other than storage space, once you’ve written the reader the image caching doesn’t seem too hard, but it still eludes me….

Written By: Gary on April 6, 2009 One Comment

Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation) Apple ComputerOverall, I really love my iPod iTouch. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s an iPhone without the phone, GPS or camera, but without the monthly prices! And while I love it I’ve got a few complaints:
1) Why isn’t it called an iTouch? It’s the obvious name, I will continue to call it that even though it’s wrong.
2) The music playing isn’t iPod-ish enough. I’ll be playing an audio file and I can’t see how long it is or how far I am into it (or have to go). It’s got more than enough room on the screen. And I need a better way for fast forwarding and rewinding, I should be able to drag a slider across the screen, not the old-fashioned hold and press on the virtual button. Give me a virtual scroll wheel in the middle of the screen or some configuration changes in the options…
4) I need a better way to manage the applications screens. I know you can drag them but it’s a pain. Any new applications just get dumped in the first free space. Let me create some categories and sort them hierarchically (like my music) but I need to put some items in multiple categories (or at least a category and a “favorites”).
3) No cut and paste! I’ve type my name, zip, and e-mail about a million times in the last week. I know they are adding it this summer but it too two years! They really need another button next to “cut, copy, paste” that says “shortcuts” where I can put the stuff I type all the time.
5) Needs some more applications for viewing info off-line. Mail works great, a few work decent, the rest require a connection.
6) No built-in microphone.
7) This thing really sucks the power! It really needs an easier way to turn the WiFi off (how about clicking the WiFi icon on the screen!).

I’m sure I’ll add some more basic complaints and I will be praising this (and applications) in future posts.

Written By: Gary on March 4, 2009 2 Comments

Amazon released a Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch application (that link is to the US iTunes store, not sure about international release).

With Kindle for iPhone, you can:
* Buy a Kindle book from your Mac, PC, or iPhone using a Web browser and wirelessly transfer the books to your iPhone.
* Read first chapters of any book for free before you buy.
* Download the Kindle books you already own for free (they are automatically backed up on Amazon.com).
* Adjust the text size, add bookmarks, and view the annotations you created on your Kindle device.

Kindle for iPhone also includes Whispersync, which allows you to seamlessly switch back and forth between your Kindle device and Kindle for iPhone while keeping your bookmarks and reading location synchronized between devices

kindleapp.jpgWow! Now you don’t even need a Kindle now to read the eBooks. I’m assuming the “digital paper” display is easier to read on the Kindle, but this is very cool. I wonder if the images look better than on the grey-scale Kindle? It looks like it will “show books in color that were developed that way“. I’ve liked the idea of a Kindle but not the cost and I’ve also been afraid of not having it with me everywhere; if I can start syncing to other devices that’d be very useful. Even if you don’t want to read a whole book on your iPhone/Touch, you can read the first chapter of all the Kindle books for free! ANd it doesn’t appear to sync magazines or newspapers, only books.

And did I mention that it’s free at the Apple App store? Of course you have to buy the books.

Update:

  • A lot of nice screenshots at the iPhone Blog.
  • It looks like to buy books you need to use Mobile Safari (or a computer) and not the Kindle software. That’s not ideal, but it’s workable.
  • Written By: Gary on January 20, 2009 No Comment

    So I’ve never been happy with most digital calendars. I’ve used them for years, but never been completely satisfied with them, they’re just always missing a few things. Usually I use what’s on my Palm Pilot, a slightly modified version of their calendar with a week view. Sadly, this is virtually the same datebook they’ve had for years and never had a decent weekly view (handspring had a version for a while) so you have to add a program on to do this. FYI, if you don’t have a Mac or don’t use a calendar this post might get pretty boring (even if you do it’s probably not the most exciting) but if you are on a Mac and use Google Calendar and/or a Palm it might be useful.

    jan20ical.pngI don’t like more of the desktop software that I’ve tried. If I find something I really like, generally the one thing that puts me off is the view of the days (either one day or a week) they generally show me a 8 or 12 hour block, this is useless to me when I have something outside that block of time, when I glance a the week view, I can’t see appointments that I have in the evening (and those are probably the fun things!). I have so few things on my calendar, I’m not booked for something different every 15 minutes, it’s easy enough to squish things together. It’s computer software, they should be able to do it.

    What I’m currently doing is syncing iCal with Google Calendar. It’s pretty quick and has worked well with all the testing I’ve done today (I’ll tell you how at the end).

    calendar_goog.gifGoogle’s calendar shows me about 12 hours so I have to scroll to see if I have anything going on. iCal for the Macintosh gives me a nice 24 hour view, but they could easily compress the 1 am-6am section to something even smaller to give the rest more space (I’ve got nothing going on all week at those times) and even the on-line version does shows you all 24 hours. Another minus is that iCal doesn’t have a way to set a default calendar, I want it to chose the one I’m syncing with Google, I can sort of cheat for that but I see that not sticking all the time, but a option to set a default seems simple enough.

    iCal and Google lets you subscribe to other calendars; kind of like a live feed that it’s updating to your calendar. When on-line it generally seems easier to add other items to my Google calendar (like when a site lists their upcoming events). While iCal doesn’t make it easy to copy from one category to another (it’s main category to my Google category specifically).

    My end result is getting the Google Calendar synced with iCal and then syncing iCal with my Palm, thus having my appointments everywhere (preferably on the Palm and on the Laptop). And then I can use the desktop application for entering info.

    If I just sync in iCal I guess they’d be on the web (in MobileMe), but I’d rather have them in Google Calendar. I can do more with Google while I’m on-line and easily add others events to it and subscribe to other calendars but with iCal I can’t see my subscribed calendars in the MobileMe web interface. I could just always use Google Calendar all the time, but not if I’m off-line, I guess that’s why I need iCal. If I got an iPhone this would be less of an issue, I’d just sync iCal with an iPhone and be done with it. Hmm…

    FYI to get Google Calendars to talk to iCal I used Calabortion (from Google). I don’t know if you actually need it (I think you can type everything in by hand) but it’s a tiny application that makes configuring a breeze (just need your Google address and password). It’ll even add your subscriptions (go to preferences) but since it’s read-only it’ll yell at you when you sync.

    Written By: Gary on December 14, 2008 No Comment

    I really like the way Apple did this iPod Touch ad.

    I couldn’t see it when I went to http://games.yahoo.com/, I assume I need to be running Windows? I tried Safari and Firefox.

    Here’s the direct link. I found this at MacRumors.

    Written By: Gary on November 15, 2008 2 Comments

    This is a problem!!!

    Someone else dropped something into the river and I made a grab for it an my camera fell out of my pocket. I meant to only leave it in that pocket for a minute when I thought the water might reach my pants pocket and I forgot to move it back. I’m am so bummed…

    The lens was closed, it was under water for just a few seconds, I wiped it off with a dry towel immediately and pulled out the battery. Needless to say I didn’t take any more pictures, I had a few from today of the ocean and monkeys but I bet those are fine. I hope the monkey shots are, I got a monkey (with a baby on it’s back) that managed to snatch a shaker of parmesan from a restaurant and were eating it up in a tree!

    Now the camera, the chip and the battery are in a zip lock bag with some dry rice (to soak up the extra moisture). I’ll leave it for a day or so and see how it is. Kitty litter is supposed to work well too, but I didn’t need a 25 pound bag of it in my tiny room.

    It’s a great camera, I’d definitely recommend the Canon SD1100 with image stabilization. It’s been in my sights for ages and I recently found a great on-line deal for it from Dell (that’s where I bought my SLR Canon camera too).

    I’ll definitely be adding the WP-DC22 Waterproof Case to my wishlist (assuming the camera still works). It’s good for 40 meters underwater (130 feet) and is supposed to also be great for “beach, rain and on the ski slopes”.

    Later: Oops, the waterproof case is more expen$ive than the camera was!!!

    Written By: Gary on October 20, 2008 One Comment

    Yes, I know I’m always talking about Apple Laptops, especially the MacBook, but I really like the Apple laptops. So the new MacBook metal laptop itself looked really nice but what I really noticed was that it felt really really sturdy whether it was opened or closed. It’s got the black border around the display with i don’t like at first glance but people must have liked it on the iMac so I guess I’d get used to it. I’d trade up in a second (half-pound lighter, backlit keyboard, brighter lower power LCD Display, longer battery life) if I needed to have it replaced for some reason but without a significant speed upgrade I really can’t justify the cost (any cost really) especially since my memory won’t transfer, neither will my spare battery or my video adaptor.

    Two questions:

  • When you use the security port (Kensington lock slot), does it lock in the battery and the hard drive by stopping you from opening the back? (it was really close to the release latch)
  • If there is no firewire, is there no target disk mode or will it work via USB? (no reason that they couldn’t)I still think it was ridiculous that they removed the firewire port. It’d have been easy enough for them to say a year ago that they planned to phase Firewire out so make sure you purchase USB devices, that would remove the real valid complaints.
  • Written By: Gary on October 16, 2008 One Comment

    So the new 13-inch MacBooks look nice, but nothing to run out and ditch your current model unless you’ve been waiting for a new one. They have two new metal models and the lower-end white plastic model but still really nice white-plastic model for $999. The processor still tops out at 2.4 GHz on the fastest model (but they upped the bus speed about 33% so that’ll help). The important parts (IMHO) are:

  • LED Screen – Brighter and lower power (I think this is only on the metal models).
  • Backlit keyboard on the fastest model.
  • New NVIDIA graphic chips (only on the metal models) – These should make the graphics faster (but they still use shared memory) and as a result make your computer faster.
  • The metal models weigh a 1/2 pound less and should be more durable.
  • No firewire on the metal models and they did not increase the number of USB ports (if you need an external drive you’re short one port now).
  • On the metal models: They changed the video connector, battery and they come standard with 2 GB of DDR3 memory now (so don’t plan on moving that from your old machine to the new).
  • New bigger glass trackpad about the size of an iPhone (only on metal models)
  • No combo drives! The low-end model has a Super-Drive DVD-Burner now; previously it’s always had a DVD Reader / CD burner combo drive.
  • Smaller packaging and the computers are supposed to be more ecological to dispose of.

    All in all, nice new machines. I’d probably wait until the next speed refresh when they might have some of the bugs out (as many new models have). $1599 for the high end model (plus $150 for a total of 4 GB of memory and $100 for a 320 GB hard drive).

    I’d really like the LED display, the backlit keyboard and the metal case (if it is stronger); I’m pretty rough on my machine and my current plastic MacBook just isn’t holding up as well as my old 12 inch iBook.

    I’m assuming when they run out of old parts the plastic version will get the same display, new trackpad and same graphic chips (and lose the firewire); or possibly become a metal model, it’s gotta cost them a lot to tool the low end machine completely differently.Later:
    Looking at the MacWorld speed tests, comparing 2.4 GHz models (13 inch new, 13 inch last Feb. (mine), and 15 inch), the speed differences are negligible when it comes to plan old processing (even with the 33% bus increase) it’s the PhotoShop (still minor) and Quake (WOW!) where the differences are. Similar results were found by Primate Labs with a 3% overall difference in the 2.4 GHz machines.

  • Written By: Gary on October 12, 2008 2 Comments

    I really don’t care what my laptop physically looks like (I want my display to look nice though). I want it functional and preferably small, light and durable. I want features at a good price. If it’s sexy too, that’s a bonus.

    I’m dying to see the specs on the new Apple MacBooks next Tuesday (Oct. 14, 2008) but I’m really hoping for more features at a great price (we need more converts). I’m not even in the market for a new laptop but I can’t wait to see. A twelve or eleven inch MacBook might change my mind though; the same goes for a touchscreen (but I’m not expecting that).Personally I like the plastic cases better than the metal, the metal slips out of my hands plus it dents more easily…

    Here’s My Dream MacLaptop:

  • 12 or 11 inch display (doesn’t need to be full height).
  • Small solid state drive and a big hard drive. All the system stuff goes on the solid state drive.
  • Lots of memory.
  • Blu-Ray DVD drive would be nice (it’s that time).
  • Non-powered audio jack (so I can use any mic/headset).
  • Security – can’t power on or wake up without a password.
  • Backlit keyboard.
  • A spot to plug in an external WiFi antenna (I’m tired of weak reception areas).
  • Internal spot for Sprint 3G cellular card (or other brand equivalent).
  • Maybe GPS (it’d go well with the mobile cellular).
  • and if we’ve got GPS and cellular we might as well as be able to run iPhone and iPod Touch apps.

    Or for something way smaller: Take a current Macbook, chop off everything below the keyboard (the trackpad area) and shrink the screen to be the same size. Somehow a track pad would have to pop out or something would visually watch your fingers gesture on the table where the trackpad would be. Obviously a DVD drive would not fit in such a machine.

  • Written By: Gary on October 1, 2008 One Comment

     Xhtml Images Icons 48 48 ReaderI just haven’t been able to keep up with all the blogs and web sites I read. I’ve never gotten into using the RSS feed readers very much. I like using the sites the way people have decorated their layout, what they chose to do tells me something about the person, not seeing it makes me feel like I’m missing something. But if I’m not actually getting to their site and reading, I’m really missing something, right?

    So I thought I’d try Google Reader out, I choose Google for several reasons:

  • It’s all via the web so it’s multi-platform; most web readers are multi-platform, but Google apps are pretty Macintosh friendly.
  • If I’m in need of a fix they’ve got a mobile interface for mobile phone browsing (actually you can do most things Google on your phone at http://m.google.com/.
  • No matter where I read the feeds it coordinates them all so you know which feeds have been read.
  • They’ve got an off-line version using Google Gears, this is what motivated me to do do this with Google. This means if I plan before I don’t have a internet connection I can sync my feeds to the computer and read the feeds off line but when I sync the computer back up, it marks the feeds as read (or stars them or what ever other things I do to the feeds).
  • I thought there was a Java version of Google Reader that I could put on my Palm Treo 755p phone, but I can’t find it. That would make this even more useful. Does this exist? Can someone point me to it if it does?
  • ADDED LATER: I guess it doesn’t cache the images for off-line viewing(?), disappointing, but I can live with it.

    So I took an hour or two the other day and put all my sites in my blog roll into Google Reader. This took some time, but I think it was worth it. I think I’ll add some of my news sites in there also (those weren’t in my BlogRoll). There were several thousand posts marked as unread since it doesn’t know what I actually have looked at, so I had to bite the bullet and mark them all as read. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to mark “all posts older than 1 week as read” (or something like that) so I had to mark them all.

    WOW! I can can get through all my feeds pretty quickly now. It’s so easy it almost makes me feel like I’m rushing, I need to slow down and chew my food enjoy the reading. Read the help for the key shortcuts! I’ve got it so when the reader starts up, it defaults to all the posts I haven’t read and I can just hit the space bar to scroll through them all, as I space through them it marks them as read and scrolls through them.

    Downsides:

  • I really miss the feel of the site though. Sometimes I’m reading something and I’m like who the heck is this? and I check and realize that I know the person but it’s out of context so it’s hard to tell. Makes me want to figure out a way to brand my feed.
  • They have feed recommendations, but they could be a little better and a few more of them.

    They’ve got some other features like “Shared Items” and “notes” but I haven’t used them yet. Any tips?

  • Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 No Comment

    So my “D” was a little crooked on my MacBook the other day so I pressed it down and it snapped back into place and has been fine. Today when I opened the lid the key just feel off and I can’t get it to snap back on.

    I can type on the missing part. It’s just annoying and I’m afraid I’ll lose the key before I can get it back on.

    While I love my white plastic MacBook it just hasn’t held up as well as my old plastic iBook. I used to beat that old iBook up and never had any problems. In addition to the “D” key I’ve got a few cracks around the seam that I have no idea when/where they came from.

    Written By: Gary on August 23, 2008 2 Comments

    So my Mom got me an early birthday present, it’s a portable Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS. This has been on my Costa Rica to do list so she asked me what I wanted at just the right time. Obviously, it’s a specific model I picked out for her and it’s been great the little bit of time I’ve played with it this past week. It’s got the color display, the compass (this is an extra) and the memory chip expansion. It’s a whole lot easier to us than I expected it was almost Apple-ish in it’s use, but there are too many buttons (it’d need a touch screen to make it a little more intuitive).

    As of right now it’s telling me we’re at 7,284 feet and traveling at 527 miles per hour (we’re somewhere south of Cuba). That’s seems a little low to me (I thought they didn’t let us use electronics until 10,000 or 15,000 feet) but maybe it’s having a hard time tracking out the window of the plane (but that’s not really my area either). I’ll be sure to upload some of the tracking info later superimposed on a map. I’ve always been into maps so it’s a fun gadget for me.

    I wanted it for Costa Rica for a few reasons:

  • the signage for the roads are awful and since some of the roads are so bad you don’t want to backtrack unless you have to.
  • When I’m hiking I’d really like to know how far I’ve wandered away from civilization and have a better idea if I’m walking in circles.
  • Maps here aren’t the greatest so maybe one of the Points Of Interest (POI) will help me find something I’ve been missing.This portable unit only has basic highways and major roads (roads like Telegraph and Michigan) for the US, it’s assumed you’re using this for specifics like hiking any you’re going to buy the topographical maps for it, but it does have exit numbers for the highways and food and gas info for those spots. I think you need to purchase the local maps for turn-by-turn directions but I never got a chance to play with that.

    In anticipation for this trip did purchase the detailed maps for Costa Rica. The unit had very limited details before that upgrade, although I think it still would have helped me orient myself quite a bit. I purchased them from www.NavSatCR.com who does about 3 updates a year and then I can purchase future years for a lot less. They actually sell cheaper 10 day and 30 day versions so if it’s just a one time trip you don’t have to invest as much, but those maps actually stop working after that time frame (I purchased the non-expiring ones). From reading around, the folks at NavSatCR seem to be the place for Costa Rican GPS maps.

    I also purchased a mount for handle bars so if I rent an ATV, scooter or bicycle it’ll help with getting around that way too.

    As I’m wrapping up writing this, we just left the air above the Atlantic Ocean and passed into El Salvador…

  • Written By: Gary on August 23, 2008 One Comment

    This was the easiest layover I think I’ve ever had. I needed to go to gate E29 and when I got off the plane I was at E31, right next door! Usually I have to traipse all over the place but I still figured I’d have a long ways to go to get food and convienently there was a great food court around E25-ish. So there was no rushing no running it’s was great. I managed to get McBreakfast, pick up a cold sandwich for the flight and there was free WiFi to do a quick check of my mail.

    And the flight? I have a whole row to myself. Actually, if everyone spread out I think every one could have their own row (out of the back 9 rows there are only 5 of us). The pilot thought it was a little bumpy for a while because of the tropical storm so it was a while before they passed out snacks but I thought it was fine.

    Written By: Gary on July 23, 2008 No Comment

    There seem to be lots more rumors on new MacBook refreshes lately and with their free iTouch (or Nano) promo (students, teachers or staff), I really want to buy now before the promo ends on September 15. I’d prefer they’ve added GPS to the iTouch but that’s just not happening yet. I’d more excited about an iTouch with the new Apps store :)

    Written By: Gary on June 21, 2008 3 Comments

    So I’ve seen these Aiptek HD 720p Video Cameras around and they’ve had it at my local Target for $149 (it’s only $135 at Amazon), I figured if it was awful I could return it for their 15% restocking fee. Actually, I’m now thinking it’s my new camera to keep in my bag at all times.

    It’s a

    • 720p HD video camera (which records to an SD chip) which is 1280×720.
    • 5 MP still camera.
    • Audio recorder.
    • and also records from a video source (haven’t tried this yet, but have read it looks great).

    Quality is great but if you move the camera too quick it could compress a little better. But for the price it’s awesome and it’s better than I would have expected.

    It’s got a record button on the front (where your trigger finger goes) and a record button on the LCD screen. On the back is a button for taking a snapshot at any time (other than when actually recording).

    Other features: It’s got a standard tripod mount and comes with a charger (but also charges off the included USB cable), lens cap, carry strap, standard video cables and component cables. It’s smart enough when you flip the LCD screen to flip the video image for self recording.

    Complaints: it sure could use image stabilization and audio-in for a microphone would be nice but I wouldn’t expect anything like that in a lower end product like this.

    Other things: I’ve only played with it a little bit but the imaging looks a little better when moving the camera quickly in the lower quality modes (720×480 and 352×240). It looks like it has an IR receiver in the front (where your hand would be) but I don’t know if that’s what it is.

    Written By: Gary on June 9, 2008 3 Comments

    Sprint gave me a call to make sure I was happy. I told him I was expecting his call, he seemed surprised. I said my contract is up and they new iPhone looks pretty yummy, gotta be afraid of losing me as a customer. All he offered me was $150 off a new phone (you get that every 2 years no matter what, AFAIK).

    And he said I could use that for a new Treo 800 (I have the 700p) when it comes out; he insisted it’s a Palm OS device (not Windows Mobile) and I rephrased the question several times. Now that I’ve had time to Google it, I think he’s wrong and it’s a Windoze Mobile device.

    Tried to buy a wireless modem card from him, best he could offer me was $60 a month. I currently have internet on my phone for $15 and $25 more (total $40) lets me tether (connect) my laptop to it and use the internet. So if I drop the $25 and pay the $60, I’ve still got the $15 on the phone, now $45 more a month. You’d think he could offer me a better incentive than that. I do already have unlimited tethering, give me a little more incentive to sign up Sprint…

    Now that I’ve got the new iPhone specs and at only $199 to switch to AT&T I’ve got all sorts of other ideas in my head…

    Written By: Gary on May 26, 2008 One Comment

    So I’ve been looking for a new pocket digital camera. I currently have a Digital Camera, a Minolta Dimage Xt 3.2MP; it does photos, movies, audio recording and in a pinch it’ll work as a thumb drive (I think it’ll even work as a webcam on a windows machine). I mentioned it as one of my top 5 electronic toys you can’t live without a few years ago and it still is. It’s awesome it takes wonderful pictures, it’s a nice and small, but it doesn’t work well in low light so when I’m shooting inside, that’s really the only reason why I don’t like it.

    Last night I took it with my on a bike ride, they were already setting up floats for the parade today so I wanted to take a few photos up close. This morning I couldn’t find it anywhere, I really thought I lost it on the way home. So I wondered down to the parade today with my awesome bigger clunkier camera, which takes beautiful pictures, but it’s just a little big to carry around everywhere. Today, it really seemed too big so I pretty much made the decision that I have to go shopping for a new camera today. But sadly, I did another look around before I went shopping and I found the other digital camera.

    I talked on the phone to my mother a few minutes ago and the first thing she said was “Bummer!” because she knew I would have liked to have had an excuse to go buy a new one. I really try not to be too wasteful with my with my technology dollars and buy every new thing that comes out.

    I’ll still be this one for a while longer but I am looking for recommendations on a small everyday camera, especially something that works well indoors but it has to have a viewfinder (I don’t care about the size of the display) and as long as it’s 4+ mega-pixels. Maybe something like a Canon SD1100, SD1000 or SD850, any thoughts?

    Written By: Gary on March 8, 2008 2 Comments

    So after the MacBook Air not being what I had hoped for, I had been hoping for a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro and while the Air is small, I wanted something not so stripped down. Since then, I’d been trying to decide between a 13.3 MacBook and a 15 inch MacBook Pro (size vs. power, I’m used to the tiny 12 inch PowerBook), I thought I’d let fate decide for me and get the next one that they upgraded. Unfortunately, last week they did an upgrade on them both on the same, letting fate avoid making the choice for me.

    This week I was at a conference and was at the Apple Booth and was playing with the 17 inch MacBook Pro and asked if they had a 15 inch to look at and then I realized I was using the 15 inch model. It just seemed so large and bulky to me. I think I’m going to have to go with the 13.3 MacBook, I think it’s only about a half pound less in weight, but it’s a bit smaller. I’m not even sure how I’d fit the 15 inch on the back of an airplane or train seat tray.

    Of course, the day after I order it, they’ll release a 13.3 inch MacBook Pro

    Later: I went with the 2.4 GHz White MacBook (I couldn’t possibly justify the Black one for $110 more, that doesn’t even make sense!), with the 250 GB HD and lots o’ RAM. The biggest downside to not getting the Pro is that the glossy screen was the only option (and the non-backlit keyboard).

    Written By: Gary on February 2, 2008 6 Comments

    So I went to the Apple Store today to take a peek at the MacBook Air. Honestly, I had pretty low expectations so I thought I’d get my socks knocked off, but it was just okay. It’s more beautiful than my 12 inch PowerBook, but just by a small margin. It’s light and thin seems pretty durable, and has the beautiful LED display (but a bit of glare). But I thought I’d leave and say “I have to have one”, but it didn’t happen. If I had the extra bucks to spend it on I’d certainly get one, but I think I’d still need a more powerful laptop.

    Pluses: 3 lbs., 13.3 inch low power LED display, small, new track-pad, backlit keyboard. Please note, some of these are huge pluses.
    Minuses: External DVD drive (which I could live with), special MagSafe power adaptor, slow hard drive, lacking ports, 80 GB, maximum HD, no option for a spare battery and (of course) the price. Note that while it’s a metal MacBook it has a shared memory video card like a MacBook, not a MacBook Pro.

    The solid-state 64 GB drive is a plus, but the $1000 price tag is certainly a minus…

    If I had a 17 inch PowerBook, the MacBook Air would make a great addition as a “day” computer, when I don’t need the power or DVD drive and didn’t want the 6.8 pounds to lug around. If I could only have one machine I’d probably take a loaded MacBook 13.3 inch (5 pounds). If I could “create” an ultimate machine it would be a 12 (or 13.3) inch MacBook Pro; I could even live with an external DVD drive it it could lower the size and weight…

    This kind of fits with my initial thoughts when I first saw the announcement of the MacBook Air, it’s not what I was hoping for. If you haven’t seen it, this is the MacBook Air ad.

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