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!

Warm-up with some ‘Fire’ this holiday season

Originally Published: November 15, 2011
The holiday season is upon us once again! While that does mean snow and freezing temperatures, new coffee flavors at Dunkin’ Donuts, including one of my favorites, Gingerbread, and not just because it’s the name of a version of Android, and being able to eat enough food that you could theoretically hibernate all winter, it’s also time to start thinking about those gifts you’ll be giving (or asking for), especially electronics.
Although there are a slew of new gadgets coming out, many of which will be hot items, I’m not going to focus on all of them right now, just one. Today Amazon’s newest tablet came out — Kindle Fire. You can check all over the internet as there are tons of reviews, GigaOM has a culmination of all the reviews on the net, but I just felt I should give my two cents because I also don’t think it should be directly compared to the iPad, the mother of all tablets.
You’ll notice many places say “it’s not an iPad-killer,” and if you remember a couple posts ago, I suggested we stop using the term, not that I expect people to listen to my small voice in northeast Pennsylvania. That being said, no it’s not the all-powerful, one tablet to rule all tablets, but it’s not meant to be. What you get is the best media consumption device $200 can buy and it’s priced the same as Chinese knock-offs, but offers so much more. The 7-inch WiFi tablet brings to the table a 1,024 x 600 IPS LCD display, dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor, 512MB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and it’s all contained in a sleek black package with a rubberized back, so it won’t slip out of your hands.
The Fire is running a highly modified version of Android Gingerbread (2.3, not 3.0 Honeycomb designed for tablets, or 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, making its debut on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus), making it much different from its previous Kindle brethren. At it’s core it is an Android tablet, but if you’re looking for a tablet with access to Google Apps such as Google Talk, Gmail, Maps, etc., or the Android Market you won’t find it on here. There’s also no GPS packing inside. In that aspect, you’re better off getting a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, but that’s a different story and expect to pay at least double the amount of the Fire.
So if you’re asking what can you do with this, as with previous Kindle versions, you can read books, but it can also run MOST Android apps. You’ll have access to the Amazon App Store, which features an extensive slew of apps, and everyday offers a free ‘App of the Day.’ I’ve heard that you can also side-load apps. What Amazon built this around though is it’s ecosystem of media, and with Amazon Prime you have access to 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books. When you purchase the Kindle Fire you get a one month subscription to the service, which included free two-day shipping for Amazon purchases, but after that it does cost $79 annually, which in my opinion is a great deal. That’s under $7 a month. You get to choose from thousands of books — including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers — to borrow and read for free, as frequently as a book a month with no due dates, from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
On top of that, Fire also allows you to use apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and nearly all the games you can enjoy on your Android phone, and yes, Angry Birds too. You get a great internet browsing experience, and free cloud storage for all your Amazon content as well.
Just to sum things up, for consumers who want something that they can use in the comfort of their home to browse the web, watch movies, read books, and play some games, Amazon seems to have gotten this right. Just like the iPad, nearly anyone can pick it up and start using it, but the price is right that it makes both a cheap, high-quality gift, and an easy impulse buy, where you won’t be left disappointed.
I’ll admit I don’t own it personally, although I purchased one the day it was announced, which I may or may not give as a gift for Christmas, so I’ll have to give my hands-on thoughts later.
So, if you’re looking to jump into the tablet world and don’t need a full-fledged device, this is a great first step. It offers all you need in a tablet, except for a front-facing camera for video chat. Take my word for it that Amazon had consumers in mind when planning this, so besides the only 8 GB of storage with no expansion, most content is left in the cloud though, it won’t disappoint.
Check out Amazon for more information or to order your own Kindle Fire.

Do we really need PMPs and iPods anymore?

Originally Published: September 27, 2011
On Monday over at Akiba, I wrote about Samsung unveiling its new PMPs (portable media players) for the U.S. market. While the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 and 4.0 look impressive and come with moderately impressive specs, it got me wondering, is there really even a market for these anymore?
Both players weigh in at 6.4 and 4.2 ounces, respectively, and both are powered by Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and include 802.11b/g/n, WVGA Super Clear LCDs (800 x 480), Bluetooth 3.0, 8GB of onboard storage, a microSD expansion slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, voice recorder, mini-USB connectivity, front and rear cameras and support for Sammy’s Media Hub content service, but are really nothing more than a Samsung Galaxy S without the phone component and are more competition to Apple’s iPod Touch, nothing more than an iPhone without the phone capabilities. Since most people have either an iPhone or some other smartphone, it seems like we’re moving away from the age of having a separate media player to carry around with us when our phones can already do that and more.
I’ll argue that you could say, well I don’t want to get my son/daughter a smartphone with a data plan, I’d rather get this, but you know in a couple years you’ll be buying them the iPhone 6 or 7, plus what 10 year old doesn’t already have a cell phone (my cousin who is about 10 years old already has both a cell phone and an iPod Touch). Also, there have even been rumors of an iPod coming out with 3G capabilities, so this market or WiFi-only devices are bound to die. I’ll go into WiFi vs. 3G devices in another post in the future though.
Anyway, although I think the Galaxy Player a sexy (yes, I said it) device and I’m sure I’d use it if I was given one, but I already have an Android phone and an iPad, so where does this device fit in the mix?  I can use my phone for music, movies and social networking while on the go, and if I’m lounging around the house or in a coffee shop and want to do the same thing, I can easily pull out my tablet if I want a larger screen.
This then leads me to my next and final point. When will we get to the point where our smartphone/PMP/tablet are one in the same? Years ago everyone wanted their phones to be ultra-small and portable and in recent years they’ve only gotten bigger. The iPhone 4 only has a 3.5-inch screen and we are still calling the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab “a tablet.” When the Dell Streak came out with it’s 5-inch screen, it didn’t sell that well. Maybe it was a combination of the hardware and software, but I also feel many people thought it was too big. Recently Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Note, a smartphone with a 5.3-inch screen and a stylus that can be tucked away, surely starting to blur the line between smartphone and tablet. It’s being well received too, so either Sammy did something else right or the market is changing. We started at both ends of the size spectrum and it seems like we’re going to eventually meet right in the middle. I believe its all been thanks to devices like the Motorola Droid X and Galaxy S devices that are pushing these limits.
With these advancements being made in the tech industry, what is going to happen to those 10-inch tablets in the future if everyone wants something that is small enough to be extremely portable, yet large enough to get real work done on?
I can’t wait to find out, but the way things are headed, I foresee some large smartphones or small tablets in the future, all 4G/5G/6G connected and able to make phone calls, that will also be in the hands of every adult and child.

Maybe we’re overusing the term “iPad killer”

Originally Published: August 28, 2011
Yesterday on Akihabara News I posted about some leaked photos/news of a new Android Tablet coming from Toshiba that is expected to make its debut at IFA 2011 in Berlin in just a few days. After reading some of the comments at the bottom of the page, even though I’m guilty of doing it many times, just as other tech journalists/bloggers are, I got to thinking, why do we keep calling every tablet that is coming out an “iPad killer”?
Since I do own devices with both iOS and Android as the operating systems, I realized that maybe we shouldn’t be calling every Android tablet coming out with specs and design similar to that of Apple’s ‘magical’ iPad, a killer. I wouldn’t want the iPad to be killed. I understand that these companies want a piece of the tablet market, but without the iPad there wouldn’t be a standard to try to surpass. Since Apple was the first to the market with a game-changing tablet, many manufacturers have had to make leaps and bounds in their technology to even give reason for customers to purchase their products. At the same time, some of these tablets offer features the iPad will never match.
That being said, I think both can co-exist. Just as there are people that would never buy an iOS device, there are the same type of people that would never buy an Android device. And the reason why I believe they can both exist is that they both offer different features. In my eyes, iOS carries the philosophy of Apple from its very beginning, “a personal computer that anyone can use.” It’s simple enough that with little to no learning curve, someone can pick it up and start using it. That’s exactly what the iPad and iPhone have done.
While I’m not trying to say that Android is any more complicated to use, but it just seems to me that it was designed with the mindset of pushing innovation to the fullest with anyone being able to contribute to its betterment. This in a nutshell is exactly what Google was founded on, the freedom of information, also why Android is an open source platform. Just as you probably won’t have an Android tablet with the exact level of simplicity or as many apps as an iPad, you show me an iPad that does as great a job at making the best use of homescreen space or offers as many innovative hardware features as say that upcoming Toshiba slate or the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Again, I’m not trying to say that Apple isn’t innovative either, it just doesn’t move as quickly on some things as it once did. With Android, Google has allowed it to be open source so anyone can mess with the code and make their own distribution, look at all the innovative features that have come from Cyanogenmod and happen at such a fast rate. This does aim Android more towards people who love the ability to tinker and customize their devices though.
In conclusion, to say that anything should be an iPad killer or Android killer is just wrong. They both come from different philosophies, which are intertwined with similarities. I own an iPad 2 and my main phone is a Motorola Atrix. There isn’t a better tablet on the market that offers the same amount of apps and has the same build quality. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is as thin and light, but its back cover is plastic, making it feel extremely cheap. For my phone, it has some features that I think can’t be challenged especially by the iPhone 4. For starters, it’s more easily connected to the Google-verse, all of my Gmail accounts and docs from Google Docs are right there, I can video chat using Google Talk right from my phone using Wifi or 3G, plus everything is synced to the cloud for free, something Apple is still working on. If I had the money I would surely buy an Android tablet since I’m a huge Google power user.
All this being said, any other tech bloggers out there that happen to come across this post, let’s try to do a better job when writing about the tech we love. Although they are in the same tablet category, that new Toshiba slate is no more an iPad killer than it is a Samsung Galaxy Tab killer.

PressReader merges print media past and future

Originally Published: August 20, 2011
I’m not going to go into the specifics, but I’m sure everyone knows how The Republican-Herald switched to paid unlimited access to the website and started offering a digital edition of the newspaper.
This post isn’t to try to sell you newspapers, but to tell you about this great app for iOS, Android, WebOS (although we had the recent news from HP), BlackBerry and Windows called PressReader. Even before the RH utilized it, I used the app to read China Daily, a newspaper where I interned, and the New York Times, my favorite newspaper.
Although I’m huge into the world of new media and blogging, I really love this app because I do like to have the print newspaper format, which this does just that. Starting with smartphones, media outlets have been making their own apps to get people to read on the go. I tried to get into them, reading on my iPhone or laterNexus One on the bus to campus (PSU, of course), but I couldn’t get into the same routine I have with physical newspapers. PressReader changed that for me.
A friend told me that many people in the newspaper/media industry see the app as not being innovative, but I have to argue against that. I see it as taking the old newspaper into the 21st century. You get the best of the print world, but also the convenience coming out of innovations from silicon valley.
I love being able to get up in the morning, pick up my iPad and my daily newspaper is waiting for me to dive into the words. It doesn’t get much simpler than that and it downloads in seconds, depending on how big the file is and your connection speed.
When reading the paper, you can easily zoom in to a story with pinch-to-zoom or double-tap. To turn the page you can either swipe to the left, press the triangle at the top of the page, or tap on the bottom bar to skip sections or swipe through them.
Other app features include the ability to print a page or screen, I can’t really comment on that since I haven’t used it, and you have the option of text-to-speech, where the stories will be read to you. I guess that could be useful to some people, but it sound a bit like a robot to me, although it did say my name correctly when I tested one of my stories.
One last feature is the ability to tap on a headline and it brings up the story in a pop-up window. It even notes where the page break was and what page the story had jumped to. This feature gives a more online article format.
To sum it all up, this is a great app for “print newspaper purists” who want to jump into the digital age or those who want an easier way to read and get their morning paper. It screams simplicity, ensuring that you can easily have your newspaper delivered to your device daily so you never have to worry about it getting stolen or ruined by the rain again. Anyone that can operate an iPhone will be able to use this app since the controls are also very simple and intuitive.
If I had to give it a rating, I’d give it about four and a half newspaper bundles out of five. The only thing I’d like to see improved is page turning since it seems to hesitate a bit.
One last thing, I realize I only talked about how to read a newspaper on it and not much on the other parts of the app such as purchasing publications, but it’s easy to figure out. The app may be free to download, but it has a built-in store that offers newspapers from all over the world. There are 327 newspapers in the PressReader store from the US alone. Anyone with questions how to get the digital edition of the RH should check out this page.
It seems the future of the newspaper may have finally come and it isn’t completely abandoning print journalism of the past. PressReader effortlessly merges print media’s past and future in a simple app. Be sure to check it out now if you haven’t yet.
P.S. Sorry for the glare on some of the photos, I did the best I could sitting at my desk trying to snap a few while armed only with my Motorola Atrix.

Tribune wants a bite of the Apple

Originally Published: August 12, 2011
This week CNN reported that after “interviews with more than half a dozen current and former Tribune employees,” who wished to remain anonymous, they learned Tribune Co. is planning its own Android tablet, which it will offer free or at a “highly-subsidized” price to people who agree to sign up for extended subscriptions.
Tribune Co. is one of the largest news enterprises in the country, and they own many of the major dailies in the nation, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun, along with 23 television stations.
If you’re thinking, “oh no, not another tablet,” then this is where I completely agree with you. Although the company wants to offer a tablet with a modified version of Android, I personally think they should stick with app development since there is no way they will be able to compete with the Apple iPad.
With all of the great tablets coming out, especially those from major companies like Samsung, Sony, HTC, Acer and Asus, I know they will probably partner with one of them to make it, but do we really need another tablet?
The tablet will be able to download other apps, so they should just create their own app for Android Honeycomb, which they don’t currently have, and offer a subsidized price or deal for a tablet like Comcast does with the Motorola Xoom. I don’t see how it’s possible to make a tablet with the company highly-integrated into it. Plus, their individual papers already have mobile apps.
I see this being like the designer Pierre Cardin who recently unveiled their own Android tablet, which is essentially a crappy Chinese knock-off re-branded.
I don’t see the Tribune trying to be innovative in a way that they will push the tablet market to new heights.
If they want to embrace the digital age, there are more ways to do it than trying to become a technology manufacturer. I guess it worked for Amazon and B&N with their eReaders, but I can’t see someone buying a tablet or wanting a tablet just for their newspaper.
The company that developed the “Kno” app for iPad to sell textbooks was originally planning to make their own tablet, but decided to embrace the iPad and other new media, to also sell books possibly through Facebook. I think the mobile web has come a long way with the leaps made in smartphone technology, plus there are other great apps that allow you to read a newspaper that is exactly like the print version, but in digital form. Some apps, like the New York Times app for iPad, aims to recreate the experience on a tablet and they had no need for their own branded slate.
Ultimately, I think this will fail unless they change their marketing scheme. I know it’s always great to have choices, but you have to also take into account that there are already established devices out there and most times it takes more than one generation to get all the bugs worked out. For a device that will have competing specs and be a high-end device, you also can’t expect to see it for less than $300 subsidized.
This is all my take though. What are your thoughts?
If you want to read the original CNN article, check it out here.

The future of eBooks lies with Google

Originally Published: July 26, 2011
It may seem like Google has their hands in everything, but here is something that I see as “one giant leap” for the eReader market.
Maybe it’s the tech geek inside me that notices these things, and to you the picture on the left may look like just another eReader, but I see the future and freedom, with open source/platforms that is.
Recently (July 17) a new eBook reader was released by iriver, the Story HD, at $139.99 and  packing a 1024 x 768 resolution in a six-inch screen.
Some other specs include a distinctive physical keyboard, mini USB port, and an SD card slot, support for multiple document formats, including DOC/DOCX, XLS/XLSX, PPT/PPTX, HWP, and PDFs with or without DRM, plus it all fits in a package the same size as the Kindle 3G, but is lighter, weighing only 7.3 ounces. It can’t surf the web, “officially,” although that’s a different story.
What sets this apart from the offerings of the Nook, Kindle, Kobo eReader, etc., is that this is the first e-reader to be fully integrated with Google’s eBooks service.
While there were previous Google-compatible e-readers, they required an eight-step process to transfer Google books, and you had to physically tether your slate to a PC.
To set itself apart, the Story HD lets you directly download them over a WiFi connection and all your books are stored in the “cloud.” Although other services like Amazon and Barnes & Noble do this, you don’t get that many choices of what kind of eReader you can buy and with Google’s platform you can also read Google eBooks on the Web, Android phones, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and supported eReaders.
Integrated with the open Google eBooks platform, this is only the first officially partnered “Google eReader.” In the future you could possibly see even more integrated eReaders from all your favorite companies, such as Acer, Asus, Samsung, I could go on.
I believe it creates the possiblity for a platform much like Android, which is open source, where the manufacturers create the hardware then use Google’s OS, or in this case, the Google Books APIs and services to connect their devices to the full Google eBooks catalog for out-of-the-box access to a complete ebookstore.
This allows manufacturers to have access to a well-known and established ebookstore — with about 3 million books, most being free — and they only need to focus on designing the best hardware to attract customers, creating even more wireless freedom.
To sum it all up, the future of reading is coming and I have a feeling it’s going to look a lot like Android, being free and open.
The Official Google Blog says to stay tuned for more Google eBooks-integrated devices to come.
For more information about the iriver Story HD, check out the Google blog post and the iriverwebsite.