Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello World... again.

I'd like to welcome you all to the new home of "Technoholic."

I'm not sure how you arrived to this blog, maybe through my profile on Google+ or Facebook, but thank you for coming. I started this blog back in February 2011 and it was supposed to be a way for me to connect with people through technology. I wanted to be able to give tips and keep people up to date with the latest tech news.

I gave that my best shot and it seems that I just couldn't bring the readers in. It was originally hosted by The News-Item, a newspaper in Shamkin, Pa., and later The Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa. It seems a ton of people just aren't as passionate about technology in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.

Here's the original logo for the blog:

This brings us to where we are today. Since my blog is no longer listed on The Republican-Herald website, I created a new blog and kept the same name. I have all my previous posts that you can read and see how my writing has progressed over the years.

I've come a long way since starting the blog and I think it's only right that the blog transitions as well. At the time of writing this, I'm still a staff writer at The Republican-Herald, but I'm also now a student at Penn State, going back for my second bachelor's degree. If all goes well, in about two and half years I'll have my B.S. in Information Sciences and Technology. I'm doing all sorts of cool things like learning how to program in C++, learning about web design and starting to create apps with my fellow classmates.

On this blog, I hope to tell you about the cool things I'm doing in class and out. One thing I'll be playing with is a Raspberry Pi, a $35 micro-computer, which I recently purchased. I also was recently contacted by the Google Glass Team and am a Google Glass Explorer. It hasn't arrived yet, but expect to see lots of posts on Glass in the near future.

So for now... stay tuned, all you technoholics...

The future of tech, Glass vs. iWatch

Originally Published: March 7, 2013
A tech revolution is upon us.
While it may seem like that revolution came with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Android and the HTC G1 in 2008 and the iPad in 2010, companies are now looking for the next big thing that will make computers even smaller and more mobile.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll know this revolution includes Google Glass (simply being referred to as Glass) and there are rumors pointing to an ‘iWatch,’ although Apple has yet to make any such announcement.
Google Glass
Google Glass
Both of these devices upon launch will be truly groundbreaking and we already know this with Glass. It was first announced at Google’s developer conference last year, Google I/O. For those of you that don’t know, Glass is designed to be used by voice commands, activated by saying ‘ok,glass’ and it can then do anything from searching Google, taking and sharing photos or video, video chatting through a Google+ Hangout and giving directions and navigation. There’s also a little trackpad on the side for further control. The device runs on either wifi or tethers to your Android or iOS device to share its Internet connection. The possibilities are endless and this product is only in beta, with select developers having a pair that cost them $1,500. Although the price has been high for the prototype devices, it will cost “significantly less,” according to one of Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, once it launches to the public by the end of the year.
The whole idea behind this product, which I find the most fascinating and why I could see myself buying a pair, is that the Internet and technology will be accessible anywhere, at any time, without having to use your hands. Google made it clear that people are looking down at their smartphones too much and this is supposed to be less intrusive so people can be more connected to their lives and the world around them.
Check out more about Glass here. If you want an even better idea of how Glass works, check out this story by tech journalist Joshua Topolosky from The Verge, who actually got to visit Google’s New York headquarters and try it out.

Is this the iWatch?
It still remains to be seen when an iWatch will come out and what it will look like. We have no idea except for a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2011 for a “Bi-stable spring with flexible display” that conforms to your wrist or other parts of the body. The iWatch is also said to run a full version of iOS. It will be interesting to see that actually comes out and what Apple’s idea behind it is.
Just comparing Glass with this Apple patent, it seems like there are two different philosophies from the companies about what the future will be like, so it remains to be seen which will come out on top. My money is on project Glass, but Apple does have a cult following, just like Google.
Last thing I’m going to leave you with is a fun comic of the two devices, that is actually pretty true with both Apple and Google.

iOS App of the Week: Infinity Blade

Originally Published: February 18, 2013
I haven’t written on the Technoholic blog in a while, so seeing about this app today made me decide to finally post something.
To me, one of the best things about new technology like all the smartphones and tablets is the apps. Today on my iPhone 5, I noticed that Apple’s “App of the Week” is Infinity Blade, a sword fighting action game from Epic Games.
Free this week, this game is exclusive to iOS devices and runs best if you have a newer device, which I think shouldn’t be a problem for most people now-a-days.
The game originally came out in December 2010, so if you don’t own it already, that’s beyond me why you don’t. The game was the first iOS game to run on the Unreal Engine 3 and much like the gameplay, the graphics are amazing. It was also the fastest-grossing app in iOS history, selling $1.6 million in four days.
Just to give you a bit more information,  in the game you fight a series of one-on-one battles as your character journeys through a castle in a fantasy world in order to fight the God King. These battles have you swiping on the screen to attack and parry, and dodge and block enemy attacks. You also get to upgrade your character’s armor and weapons along the way.
Infinity Blade does an amazing job taking advantage of the iPhone and iPad’s high-resolution Retina Display and fast processors. It’s definitely worth purchasing even when at full-price, $5.99. Don’t forget that Infinity Blade II is also out, which is $6.99 on the App Store.
If you’ve never played either and are looking for a game that you can get lost in and to witness the true power of your iOS device, download Infinity Blade for “FREE” this week while you still can.

Ouya, redefining the video game console

Originally Published: July 18, 2012
Video games are expensive. For example, take the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. I currently own both of these since their launch and the Xbox set me (a college freshman at the time) back $300 and that wasn’t including buying games, a hard drive and an extra controller. I originally got my PS3 for Christmas and now that I look at it, having my parents pay at least $500 for it, when it’s now half the price, was crazy. / CC BY-SA 3.0
A new project, which is starting with the ever-popular Kickstarter method to gain funding, is hoping to change that. Called Ouya, “a new type of video game console,” it’s being built upon open-source technology, will run Google’s Android operating system and will retail for $99. The project was founded by Julie Uhrman, a game industry veteran, and is in collaboration with designer Yves BĂ©har.
While everyone is gaming on their mobile devices, like their iOS and Android phones and tablets, this console will essentially bring those games to your television. You have to admit that this is still the best way to play games, with a controller in hand.
Now although the console will be $99, it will still be powerful with the following specs:
  • Tegra3 quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB of internal flash storage
  • HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0 (one)
  • Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad
  • Android 4.0
The best thing about Ouya, in my opinion, is it will be powerful enough for hardcore gamers with its Tegra 3 processor, able to handle shooters like ShadowGun and Renaissance Blood, but it’s also for the casual gamer. With it’s touchpad built into the controller, you should be able to play games like Angry Birds just as you would on your phone or tablet. Since all the games come from the Google Play Store, you won’t be shelling out $60 for games, only on average 99 cents to $10. So, how game-changing does that sound? / CC BY-SA 3.0
Some other features include since the console is open-source, people are free to gain root access to the device and are free to mod it as they please, which usually voids your warranty. Ouya is also planned to include game titles from both major and independent developers.
Just like most things going full-circle, I think once again the little man will have a chance in the game industry. Mobile devices let anyone develop their own applications and games and sell them and now people will have the opportunity to do the same for a TV-based video game console. This actually in a way reminds me of Steve Wozniak’s book, when he talks about helping Steve Jobs making games for Atari (sometime in the 70s) and getting paid for developing a game in just a couple days. It was a simpler time when they weren’t spending millions of dollars to develop a game.
As of writing this post the Kickstarter campaign is up to $5,051,413 and has 21 days left. The project originally only had a $950,000 goal. Ouya is planned to launch in March 2013. If you want more information about the project or would like to back it, check out the campaign page at

‘The new iPad’ is here, it’s more magical than ever

Originally Published: March 8, 2012
If you’ve been waiting for a reason to jump into the tablet world, this is it. Today during Apple’s iPad event in San Francisco, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook revealed the company’s most powerful tablet yet, which is being called none other than “the new iPad.”
You may have been expecting it to be called the iPad 3, HD or 2S, since it does look pretty much exactly like its predecessor, but don’t let the name disappoint. Dropping the number tags along at the end of the iPad name makes it simpler and less confusing — to Apple at least.
Although the new iPad is slightly heavier than the “iPad 2″ at 9.4 millimeters thin, or 0.37 inches, compared to 8.8 millimeters, or 0.34 inches, for the iPad 2, and the weigh is going up from 1.33 pounds to 1.4 pounds, the new weight most definitely comes from the added features. That new display and processor I’m going to mention later definitely need a bigger battery, which still offers the same charge even with faster LTE network speeds.
I won’t go through everything that Apple announced on Wednesday — there was also a new Apple TV and lots of new iOS apps — but here are some of the major features of “the new iPad.”
Also, the new iPad is available for pre-order now and will be launching March 16. It will be the same prices at the iPad 2 when it launched, starting at $499 and going up from there depending on HD size and cellular data. With the new tablet, the iPad 2 has now dropped by $100 in price. The iPad still only goes up to 64 GB, so if you were hoping for 128 GB of on-board storage, you’re out of luck.
The display
The first thing I have to highlight is the display. Now while I’ve yet to use the new iPad, only Apple employees and those lucky enough to be at the event in California have, they say the display is a beauty. The new “retina display” boasts a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution display, with 3.1 million pixels total spread across the screen, 326 dots per inch (dpi). The iPad 2 only had 1024 by 768 pixels at 132 dpi. As with the name “retina display,” first used with the iPhone 4, it’s used because such a dense screen should allow pixels to be indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches away.
If you don’t see a reason to spend money on the new iPad because of a better screen, remember that it will be able to display apps, websites and video with more detail and clarity, especially useful since Apple also announced Wednesday that the iTunes store will now stream full high-definition 1080p video, up from 720p, and  – I’ll get to this more later – the new screen will better show off photos and videos shot with the improved camera.
Improved Camera
Leading off from the last paragraph, the new iPad will feature a 5-megapixel “iSight” rear camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, and has auto exposure, auto focus, a backside illumination sensor and face detection. In the front is a VGA quality, 0.3-megapixel “FaceTime” camera for video chats and lower resolution photos.
It’s a major improvement from the VGA-quality front and rear cameras in the iPad 2, while the back shooter was more high quality, it had was less-than 1-megapixel, although it could shoot 720p video. The first generation iPad had no cameras.
Modified Apple A5 processor
While everyone was expecting the new iPad to come with a brand new “A6″ quad-core processor, that sadly isn’t the case, but don’t think this new A5X doesn’t add more power. Taking the chip featured in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, Apple paired the CPU with an improved quad-core GPU (graphics processor). This makes it better able to handle the 1080p video and the new retina display.
Apple said the A5X delivers “double the graphics performance of the A5 chip,” and that it delivers four times the performance of the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, used in most of the newest Android tablets coming out now.
Both the iPad 1 and 2 offered only 3G speeds, the latter adding Verizon into the mix. With the new iPad comes Verizon and AT&T 4G LTE versions. Although there is now a Sprint iPhone, there was no word of a Sprint version of the new iPad. The new iPad will bring download speeds up to 42 Mbps (megabits per second) with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1 Mbps with HSPA+, and have a maximum download speed of 73 Mbps. You will still need to choose either a Verizon or AT&T version, if you want to have access to mobile broadband on your device.
These faster data speeds contribute to it being the fastest iPad yet, with both processor and data speeds.
Dictation… no, it’s not Siri
Here’s the last feature I’m going to tell you guys about — Dictation. Ever since Siri was announced with the iPhone 4S, I wanted it on my iPad 2. Both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4 were left in the dark, as Apple basically said it was only meant to run on the 4S. The iPad 2 should have gotten Siri, it had the same hardware, but the only way to get it on there was by jailbreaking and if you already own a 4S or know someone who does.
That aside, the new iPad got a tiny voice communication software of its own that only allows you to speak what you want to write and it will then be written out. Dictation doesn’t offer Siri’s features where you can ask it your location, where the nearest sushi restaurant is, the weather or to call you “Rock God.”
This is basically the same feature as on Android phones where it writes out your text messages for you, or in other words, Siri without all the bells and whistles.

You can’t stop the Facebook changes… or maybe you can

Originally Published: February 1, 2012
Working in the news industry, whether I’m talking about the articles I’m writing for the newspaper or the blog entries I’m writing for Technoholic, there’s one thing that I’ve realized and that’s “the times they are a-changin’,” so take it from Bob Dylan.
In the technology world, one thing constantly changing is Facebook, which I know is welcomed by some people, but met with anger by others. The only thing I have to say about this, I think can be summed up in a quote by Shmi Skywalker to her son Anakin as he was leaving Tatooine in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace:
“You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.”
Facebook may be changing, but most of the time, the changes are great, and think about it, if Facebook didn’t make changes, it wouldn’t continue to grow and “change” the way we interact online. The latest round of changes, which will be mandatory for everyone soon, is to upgrade to the Timeline profile. On the surface Timeline seems like it’s only a large photo at the top of the page and a new arrangement with a line down the center, but it’s much more than that. I’ve also heard, from talking with a friend through a Facebook conversation that people are getting the impression it’s just another way for someone to further stalk your life, which I don’t think is true either.
Let’s face it, we can’t remember everything that we do, and most of us don’t have the time (or the persistence) to keep a journal, so this is essentially what Facebook is doing for you. Facebook is making a scrapbook of everything you do, all of your interactions with friends, relationships, places you go, you can upload videos and photos from when you go out with friends or take trips, it keeps track of the apps you are using such as seeing what you’re listening to with Spotify or what you’re reading on Washington Post Social Reader, and all of it is right there in chronological order. How cool would it be if Facebook is still around in 20 years (which it just may be at this rate) and you can show your kids all the great things you did in your life?
It’s all pretty impressive to say the least actually, from my point of view, and it’s all made possible by the engineers of Facebook and the innovators of social networks.
While you may say this is just making it easier for people to stalk you, in this day and age, you shouldn’t have anyone as a Facebook friend that you don’t want to be able to see what you’re up to. There are so many privacy settings, it’s crazy, so people actually can’t see all your stuff unless you let them. People that you do let see your profile though have also always been able to go back through your history, it just took longer before, but now you can go back by year, then my month, all the way back to your birth. Also, everyone is using services like Foursquare to check-in at places, and also checking in with Facebook places, so we already know exactly where you are most of the time thanks to you.
One thing I think is interesting about this is nothing is set in stone, and you can actually delete or add events in your Timeline as well.
If all this doesn’t help change your mind, than I’m not sure what will, Just keep in mind that in another month or two, you’ll forget all about the changes and will be used to it. It happens pretty much every time Facebook updates it’s site. Can you remember exactly how Facebook looked when you joined? I know I can’t really exactly how it was in 2005, but what I do remember most is how it was only for college students, so no older people, high school students, etc. So, who knows where Facebook will be in the next couple years, but  I can say Facebook will continue to change. So please, try to embrace it, especially Timeline. I’ve been using it since the beta in September, and it really is a great way to express yourself and keep track of everything you do.
Before ending this post, I have one last thing to say. If you really want to try to bring back some of the old Facebook features, check out this post on Mashable, to learn how to get some back through Firefox extensions. I won’t go into detail about them, but they will remove the news ticker, hide Facebook questions and polls, revert back to the old photo viewer, hide offline friends like the old version of chat, and bring the comment button back.
I hope this was helpful, but take my advise and embrace change!

New Year’s Resolutions: Tech Edition

Originally Published: January 6, 2012
Happy New Year local readers and fellow technophiles! While we all make those resolutions every year that we never keep, such as drinking less, losing weight and quitting smoking, I have a couple technology-related resolutions I’d like to offer for this year that could make your gadget life a lot easier.
RESOLUTION I: First things first, I’m tired of seeing people making Facebook pages or events asking for phone numbers since they either lost their cell phones or broke them, so back-up your phones and phone data! We’re living in the age where smartphones are getting cheaper and cheaper. I bought my first smartphone, the original iPhone, in 2007 and paid $550 on contract. Now you can  find some smartphones on contract for as little as a penny (if you know when and were to look) and I know that on AT&T, you only need the minimal $15 data plan. T-Mobile has unlimited calls, text messaging and data for $50 a month. If you have an Android phone, it will back-up all your contacts automatically to your Google account, if you have an iPhone, just make sure you either have your phone backing up with iCloud or just connect it to your computer every once and a while. I only takes a minute or two usually. Follow this and you’ll never lose your phone contacts ever again. Stop living in the stone age people!
RESOLUTION II: Keeping with the theme of backing-up, please (please, please, please x3) back-up your laptops and desktop computers. It’s so simple now, so I don’t know why more people don’t do it. I’m not completely familiar with it on a PC since I’m a Mac user, and have been for years, but Windows 7, which I’m hoping all of you PC users are using by now, has a built-in Backup and Restore Center. Just take a few minutes to read up on it.
For Mac users, it’s extremely simple with Time Machine. If anything, make this your number one resolution and go out to buy a brand new external hard drive. I did a quick search on Amazon and a 3 TB Western Digital drive is about $189, while a 2 TB is about $130-140. You can get others at far less that $100, I have a 1 TB drive that I bought a few years ago for about $60. That’s not a lot of money considering how much space you get and the troubles it will save you in the future. If you’re a Mac user like me, get the 3 TB and just keep it connected to your computer. Time Machine will do regular automatic back ups for whatever schedule you set and will automatically delete older backups whenever it gets full.
I remember seeing a kid I went to college with who had his MacBook hard drive crash and he paid  Geek Squad at Best Buy an excessive amount (too much) of money to extract the data from the failed hard drive. Had he backed up, he could have popped in a new internal drive (even cheaper than an external drive), and just restored his Mac. No problem.
RESOLUTION III: Sort out all those wires from your computer or behind your TV and clear the clutter… enough said.
RESOLUTION IV: Make sure you don’t put that surge protector from your computer under your desk right by your feet. I’ve already seen it happen at work in the newsroom where a fellow employee’s computer just randomly shut off and he couldn’t figure out why. It ended up he flipped the switch on the surge protector or power strip with his foot. This isn’t too hard, just watch where you have it placed.
RESOLUTION V: Know the tech that you’re buying. I say this because I know people that have gotten computers that where not what they expected or cell phones that have not gotten updates and they expected it would. To keep this simple I’ll say just to please, do your research first. A $300 computer from Walmart is not the same as a $1,200 computer. Apple computers are not all that expensive if you look at the amazing build quality, software with few bugs, and Mac Minis start at $599. Apple also has a great selection of refurbished computer, which you can’t even tell they’re refurbs. I got my MacBook Pro as a refurb, which was the latest model at the time with a second gen Core i7 processor and saved about $300 from a new one. For PCs, I say, in this day and age, Dells are not the same computers they used to be unless you go with an XPS. If I were buying a new PC, I’d go with an Asus or Acer, they offer great specs and at affordable prices. For cell phones, with Apple products (iPhones) it’s always best to go with the latest model because then you know you’ll get updates the longest, for a least a year or two, if not longer. Mobile development moves at skyrocket speeds so it’s always a gamble as the latest and greatest is just around the corner. For Android phones, while I realize the average consumer might not care about updates, get a Google Nexus device (latest is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, exclusive to Verizon in the US, and there’s an unlocked that works on any 3G GSM network). They get updates straight from Google and will ensure you get updates first for at least a year or two. Most phones with custom interfaces like the Galaxy S phones or the Droids from HTC and Motorola are subject to the manufacturer for updates, and most likely will never come. Who knows when you will get the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update, if ever. Samsung said the original Galaxy S wouldn’t get it, although they would revisit the issue. Looks like those will only get a software pack to give it similar features to ICS, but trust me, you want the fill experience. ICS is the best and least buggy version of Android that I’ve ever used. It’s a worthy upgrade and I think one-ups Apple and iOS.
RESOLUTION VI: I know that six is a weird number to end on, but I figured five resolutions, and one for good measure (actually, it’s all the major ones I could come up with). Anyway, this year try to make an effort to help those in your family that aren’t as technologically savy as you are, especially around the holidays. Unless the browsers update themselves to the latest version, or the iPhones and Androids automatically ask you to update, etc., chances are your family members won’t be updated to all the latest firmares and softwares. Give them a hand without complaint. I from time to time update my mom’s iPhone to the latest iOS and update her apps for her since she doesn’t really know how to do it or forgets. One last thing in this resolution, be sure to help family avoid tech disasters such as buying a crap device or tablet (ahem… like the Velocity Cruz tablets.. you know who I’m refereing to). We don’t need to put bad tech in the hands of our loved ones that we wouldn’t truly buy for ourselves in any lifetime.
So, that all being said… HAPPY NEW YEAR! Make it a good one!