Monday, October 31, 2011

New AZiO keyboard

We have reviewed AZiO keyboards in the past and we have always found them to be great for gamers. Here's an announcement we received this week:

AZiO Corporation, a computer peripheral company specializing in consumer peripherals and gaming equipment has announced the release of a new mechanical gaming keyboard that will enable gamers to take their gaming prowess to the next level. The Azio Levetron Mech4 Gaming Keyboard offers a streamlined design that allows gamers to improve their speed and accuracy with easy-to-reach macro keys allowing for the trickiest and complex gaming moves.

The unrestricted modular customization and ultra-durable keyboard designed for heavy combat, appeals to gamers who thrive on role playing or other online multi-player video games. The Levetron Mech4 Gaming Keyboard has several attractive features including a Cherry mechanical switch with an extended lifespan of 50 million keystrokes and a dedicated macro trigger at a finger’s reach.  Highlights also include anti-ghost keys to allow for simultaneous key strokes, a mechanical linear design for rapid pressing, and special seals and drainage gutters for a complete water resistant layout to prevent spills from ending the life of the keyboard.

“The most accented and probably greatest notable feature of the Levetron Mech4 Gaming Keyboard is the modular configuration, specifically the detachable numeric keypad,” said Wilson Tang, Marketing Vice President at Azio Corporation.  “By allowing the numeric keypad to be attached to either side of the keyboard, gamers can use these keys as additional macro keys, customize them for extra functions, or simply use them as a standard numeric keypad to improve your game and win!”
  • Interface: USB
  • OS Support: Windows XP/Vista/7 (all versions)
  • Switch Type: Mechanical (Cherry MX Black)
  • Keyboard Macro Keys: 5 Keys x 2 Sets (A/B)
  • Modular Macro Keys: 6 Keys
  • Switch Lifecycle: 50 Million
  • Cable Length: 6 feet, Braided with Gold Connectors
  • Keyboard Dimensions: 7.75” x 18.50”x 1.60” inches (LxWxH)
  • Numerical Keypad Dimensions: 6.75” x 5.50” x 1.60” inches (LxWxH)

  • PC with built-in USB ports
  • Windows XP, Vista, or 7
  • CD ROM for software installation
The Levetron Mech4 Gaming Keyboard has an MSRP of $109.99 and is available online at and in the U.S. and Canada.  For more information regarding this product and other AZiO products, please contact AZiO directly, or visit

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Pentax Imaging web site

Our favorite digital camera company has updated their web site and we have been very impressed with the changes. Here's the official announcement we received this week:

OVER THE PAST several months we have been making some huge changes on our web properties, and now they are ready for the World to see. We have consolidated all of our sites, and launched a brand new PENTAX Imaging web site, Mobile PENTAX Imaging and PENTAX Photo Gallery. Fresh with a new look and feel, and optimized for you to enjoy on your desktop, tablet or smartphone, these new sites have some great enhancements that we are excited to share.

  • Better optimized graphics for faster browsing
  • New Sport Optics section, for birding, hunting, astronomy and travel
  • Social media integration. Share products and content with your friends
  • See cameras in action with sample images from the PENTAX Photogallery
  • View it on your desktop or your tablet
Check it out at

Saturday, October 29, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook free offer

Research-In-Motion has just announced an offer to try to get people to buy their underachieving tablet, the RIM PlayBook. From now until December 31, 2011 if you buy two PlayBooks from one of their authorized VARs you'll get a third one free.In addition, you'll get one "premium accessory" with each Tablet. The Premium Accessories are a leather sleeve, charging pad or 6' HDMI cable.

Here are my thoughts on this offer:
1- It's not enough to get people to go for the RIM product over an iFruit or Android Tablet. HP learned that the only way to get their product sold was to drop the price to $99.
2- Having potential buyers go through approved VARs only sounds like an effort to appease angry resellers who invested in a lot of stock and see it gathering dust in their warehouses.
3- With the recent extended outages of the BlackBerry service and the lawsuits that they are now facing, this offer has the look and feel of an act of desperation. RIM may be in even bigger trouble than we thought.
4- I wish them luck. The industry is always better off when there are lots of players creating new products.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Samsung outsells iPhones

Samsung continues their roll. The numbers are in for Q3 and Samsung outsold the iPhones by about 10 million units! That's an incredible feat for a company that only got into the phone market last year. Congratulations Samsung.

Personally I love Samsung's Android products, both their phones and their superb 7" and 10.1" Tablets. The Samsung products have all of the power and all of the apps to really dominate the market. I can clearly see what the late Steve Jobs was so afraid of. Samsung has the products to kick the iFruit company's butt!

I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring. Will the rapid improvements in Android and continued growth in Smartphone capabilities push the iPhones aside? Will iPhones be niche phones the same way iFruit computers are? What do you think?

HP makes a great decision

Meg Whitman made a great decision this week, HP will be keeping the personal systems group and continue selling PCs. We had hoped that she would reverse some of the terrible decisions her predecessor had made and she is. It still boggles my mind that the number one PC seller would have even considered selling off a division that was continuing to make money in a slow world-wide economy. Fortunately for HP they now have a CEO who knows what she's doing and she'll keep them on the right track.

Now let's hope they get back into the tablet market. They have the infrastructure to seriously challenge all comers and can create the kind of products that people will want to buy. HP and Lenovo are the two biggest players in the PC game and they need to lead the way with innovative products.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Steve Jobs and Fox News

One of the things that has come out since the recent death of Steve Jobs was his feelings about Fox News. It turns out that Mr. Jobs had serious discussions with Rupurt Murdoch, the head of Fox News, and told him they were being disruptive. I wasn't present at the meetings so I am just passing on the news as I've heard it.

If this is true, and I have no doubt that it is, then it is just another example of the iFruit company philosophy of creating "fan boys" and not accepting any criticism of any kind. Mr. Jobs and others like him feel they have the one true vision and everyone who disagrees with their vision needs to be silenced.

Thank God we live in a country that allows free expression. At least for now.

Let us pray for freedom of choice and freedom of speech. Rest in peace Mr. Jobs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Windows on desktops

I read one of those in depth articles today that talked at length about how the percentage of desktops that use WinXp is dropping rapidly. Believe it or not, almost 51% of desktops are still using WinXp ten years after it was intriduced. Wow, the majority of desktops are still using WinXp instead of Win7, WinV, MacOS or Linux. Here's the chart:

But wait, think about it for a moment. Who uses desktops any more???

If they wanted to truly capture the percentage of OS use they should include notebooks, netbooks, tablets and smartphones. I don't remember the last time I used a desktop and have no plan on ever touching one again. I think I represent the vast majority of computer users today in what I use and how I compute.

My primary laptop does use WinV and I admit it. But none of the tablets I use has WinAnything, my preferred netbook uses ChromeOS and all of my phones are Androids. The day of the desktop is long gone and we don't need any more studies to prove it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Joy Factory BubbleShield

We received two different sizes of the Joy Factory BubbleShield products to evaluate, one designed for iPads and other Tablets and one designed for iPhones and Smartphones. They also make sleeves sized for the 7” market of Samsung Galaxy Tabs and Nooks, etc. but we didn’t receive that size. In addition they make a BubbleShield Pro which is made of heavier material and is suitable for more hazardous environments.

Basically the BubbleShield sleeves are custom sized zip-lock bags. They are attractively designed and very functional. One side of the sleeve is clear and is intended for the screen side of the device. The back side has a decorative pattern on it with clear areas that coincide with where the cameras are on most phones. There is also a “placement ring” on the top so that you can hang the sleeve and device when you’re transporting it.

The sleeves are reusable and water-resistant. They provide protection against water, dirt, mud, grease fingerprints and other stuff like that. If you’re like me then you know how easy it is to gunk up the screen of your device. The BubbleShield sleeves help keep your screens safe and clean when you travel and we love that!

The BubbleShield sleeves are meant to be used when you’re carrying the device while you’re out and about. There is absolutely no way you can attach cables of any kind when you’re using the sleeves. That means you’ll have to take the device out of the sleeve to charge it. Considering what the BubbleShield is intended to do this isn’t a problem.

We tried the Tablet unit with several 10.1” Tablets with mixed results. Neither the Acer Iconia Tab or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 inch models fit, they were too long. The Motorola XOOM fit, but just barely. Naturally, smaller model with 7” screens like the ViewBook 730 and the NextBook Premium 7 fit with lots of room to spare. If you have a larger 10.1 inch Tablet you might want to check to see if your unit will fit. Remember, these products were designed for iFruit devices which, of course, is the vast majority of the market.

For Smartphones, the biggest unit we tested was the LG Revolution VS910 from Verizon. All of our other Smartphones were smaller so naturally we knew they would fit. The Revolution was a perfect fit and it felt like the sleeve was designed for it.

We were very impressed with how easily we were able to use both phones and the tablets that fit when they were inside the sleeves. We were able to use on/off buttons, volume controls and the touch screens with no major problems. They were very responsive and worked as well as they did without the BubbleShield.

The BubbleShields turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. They are an inexpensive way to help protect your valuable investment in a Smartphone or Tablet computer. They are recommended if your unit fits.

Price for a 5 pack of the Smartphone size or a 3 pack of the Tablet size is $19.95 and they should be available now online at and at select retailers.

Netflix and Ronald Reagan

It's kind of sad to see Netflix continue their downward spiral. The latest news is that their subscriber base has shrunk by over 800,000 users in the last quarter. Of course, they still have 23.8 million users so there's time to turn things around.

After the short lived Qwikster debacle (or should I say the still-born Qwikster debacle since it never really lived) I had hoped that they would really take a look at their decisions and take some positive steps to turn their business around. Investors clearly have little faith in their decisions and their stock price has plummeted to under a hundred after being over three hundred earlier this year.

The decision to raise their monthly subscription price by over 50% was a major error. Time and time again businesses and governments have made the same error, raising prices or taxes in order to try to make more money. It is well proven that the right way to increase revenue is to reduce prices and taxes. Noted President and  economist (yes, his degree in college was in economics) Ronald Reagan knew this and turned a stagnant economy around creating one of the great economic booms in history.

Both Netflix and our current administration in Washington could learn a lot from The Gipper.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The McRib is back!!

I just heard this news: McDonalds is going to be selling the McRib sandwich nationwide until November 14th!! I know this isn't tech stuff but I LOVE the McRib sandwich. If you're like me you'll be hitting your local Mickey D's a lot in the next two weeks or so!

MSFT is at it again

I recently heard some of the remarks made by Steve Ballmer at the Web 2.0 conference recently and it sounds like back in the good old days when MSFT mattered. He went on and on about how MSFT was a major power in the Cloud (they are? That was really news to me!), how MSFT smartphones are so much better than Android's (because Andoid phones are way too complicated for non-computer scientists) and how Win8 will all things to all men. Yeah, sure.

This really is the classic MSFT tactic of spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in order to try to keep people from buying competitor's products and wait for the next version of something MSFT will sell. I'm sorry Steve but that is an old song and we're not listening to your version of it any longer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The growth of Tablet computers

One of the perks of writing reviews is being in on the beginnings of a hardware product line and watching it mature as time goes by. I have fond memories of the birth, maturation and, sometimes, the death of several wonderful lines. PDAs were started by the Palm Pilots, then challenged by WinCE and a slew of other challengers. I’m still enjoying that ride tremendously because they have grown into today’s Smartphones.

Tablet devices are the latest devices that we’re watching grow. Just a year ago they were still crude mash-ups that were poor shadows of real computers. In just over twelve months they have blossomed into great little powerhouses that have literally killed the Netbook market.

Many thanks to the iFruit company for their iPads, they have caught people’s imagination and have created a whole new industry. Whether all of the non-iFruit products will thrive, or even survive, is still open to question. As a matter of fact, the health of all of the iFruit company’s products are questionable since the loss of Mr. Jobs. We’re still enjoying the Tablet ride and will continue to review them regularly.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Internet today

What would the world be like today if we didn't have the internet? I ask this because of my experiences lately. I turned 65 years old this week and now have a Lifetime hunting and fishing license with very few restrictions. It's one of the few real perks of living this long!!

One of the questions I've had was how do I get temp tags for my license? Of course the answer is simple: you go online and download the tags. What else would you expect today?

My question NOW is: what do people without internet access do? Probably the same thing they have always done. They go to their local gun store and ask Bubba for a temp tag. My guess is that they can still do this but I'm not sure. Everything is totally computerized today and the old fashioned Bubba to Bubba option may not be available.

I bought my Lifetime license on Tuesday morning and was told I would get a permanent card in a few weeks. 48 hours later it arrived in the snail mail. Trust me, there was exactly zero human intervention. I'm sure everything was done by computers and the internet is the way everything is done today.

New LensPen product

We have always been big fans of LensPen's products for one big reason: they work!! We received this announcemnt today and had to pass it on. We'll be getting a review unit soon and will let our followers know how well it works. Here's the release:

LapTop-Pro™ from LensPen® is the all-in-one screen and keyboard cleaner specially designed for LCD screens and keyboards on laptop and notebook computers. It makes a great gift for laptop user on your list.

LapTop-Pro uses the same carbon technology found in other LensPen products that have kept fine optics clean and images sharp for years. And, like other LensPen products, LapTop-Pro features two working ends. The brush end includes two retractable brushes: one for cleaning loose dust from LCD screen surfaces, and one designed for cleaning between the keys of the keyboard. Flip up the cleaning pad on the other end to remove fingerprints from the screen.

“LapTop-Pro is safe and easy to use,” said Ryan Keating, Vice President of Marketing at Parkside Optical, the makers of LensPen. “There are no cloths, no sprays and no liquids. And the cleaning pads are made from an ultra-soft optical-grade chamois; they will not harm your LCD screen.”

Compact and portable, LapTop-Pro fits easily in your laptop case, so you can take it everywhere your laptop goes. It’s a laptop necessity, not just an accessory.

LapTop-Pro is available at visit and electronics stores nationwide. Replacement cleaning pads are available in packages of two. MSRP for LapTop-Pro is $24.95, and $14.95 for the package of two replacement pads.

For more information on LapTop-Pro, as well as other LensPen products, go to and

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Steve Jobs bio

It's been a long time since I've been intrigued by a tech bio. The soon-to-be-released bio of Steve Jobs may cause me to buy a copy right away. The leaks I've read about so far are VERY interesting. The late Mr. Jobs sounds like he was even more cantankerous than I thought!

We all know that he and Bill Gates never got along but now it sounds like he also disagreed with Barry, oops, I mean, Barack Obama too. Mr. Jobs was as much an individualist as we all thought. Not necessarily a kind person but still a thinker.

I've never liked his company or his marketing philosophy but he was a huge success in business. Rest in peace Steve. I wish I knew you better.

The MCC has been distributed

The latest issue of oue ePub, the Monthly Computer Chronicle, was sent out this morning to all of our subscribers. If you're a follower of the blog but don't get the PDF version with all of the reviews and columns just email me at and I'll add you to the subscribers list.

This month we have reviews of the Samsung ChromeBook, a Magellan GPS, the Pandigital Novel, and many other hardware and software products. There are also several insightful columns that everyone should enjoy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ubuntu 11.10 first impressions

I've finally had a chance to try out Ubuntu 11.10 this week. As is my habit, I created a bootable USB drive and tested the software on a number of computers. Here are my first thoughts:

1- the USB drive creation process was simple and worked effortlessly. The Universal USB Installer v. is a great tool that every user should have in their tool box.
2- I've gotten used to the new interface and it works very well. It you haven't tried Ubuntu in the past year you should give it a shot.
3- WiFi connectivity worked very well with every computer we tried, except for Lenovo Netbooks. We've always had problems with the Broadcom drivers that come with Ubuntu and this version still had the problems.
4- We couldn't get the Samsung Chromebook to boot from the USB drive but that's because of the Chromebook's hardware, not a Linux problem.

We'll continue to test this version of Ubuntu and we'll have periodic updates on this blog. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The changing face of Facebook

Lately I've been hearing a lot of angst over the ever changing face of Facebook. I will admit to being a Facebook addict myself. There's just something compelling about keeping up with new and old friends alike online. I even use the Facebook app on my Android devices so I can stay in touch.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows that the way to keep people interested in your product is to keep it fresh and intriguing. He's never been one to say things like "let's not mess with success" and see his users start to desert his ship. Nope, he is constantly improving the way Facebook works and has people interact. Sometimes they have to be pushed along because of peoples resistance to change but in no time at all they adapt. The users who cry the loudest are usually the ones who are happiest with the new features.

Facebook will be rolling out many new features and a new profile page in the upcoming weeks. Expect to hear the usual screams of anguish and demands for getting their old Facebook back. But in a few days everyone will be happily tweaking their Timeline and wondering how they ever lived without it.

Keep up the good work Facebook, we love your ever changing face.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apps vs. Software

We have reached the point in time where big software is close to being dead. By big software I mean the kind of stuff we all used to buy in stores like CompUSA. It came in boxes with thick instruction manuals and lots of disks. It weighed a ton and cost a whole lot of money. That was how companies like MSFT, Corel, Borland, Novell and countless others made their money. And they made a lot of it.

Today the market has totally changed. Today Apps rule. There are individual apps for anything you want to use a computer for. And the apps are all small software packages that are easily downloaded and are either free or very inexpensive. Todays computer user is using a smartphone, or a tablets, or a Netbook, or a notebook or a desktop and they are using exactly the same apps on all of them. 

It's a very different world than a few years ago. And a much better world in my opinion. We have much lower cost for the consumer and the user isn't being forced to buy unwanted, bloated software "suites" any longer. It may hurt MSFT's bottom line but it helps the rest of us.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A time of reflection

I’m reaching one of those landmark birthdays on October 17th and that means it’s time to look back on life. For my whole life, or for the parts of my life that I remember, I’ve looked at turning 65 as being really old. And I mean really old. You know, the grim reaper is honing his scythe getting ready to harvest my old bones. That kind of old.

But now that I’m there things seem to be a little different. Admittedly I haven’t had a day job since 2002 when I retired from the FAA after 36+ years as an Air Traffic Controller, but I still put in full days at work. I’m not sitting on the porch in a rocker waiting to die, I have more things to do than I ever imagined I would.

Thanks to all of our subscribers and the followers of our blog. Your interest in our work makes my next few years very exciting. I am looking forward to seeing where the next 65 years will take me.

As I look back on my 65 years I amazed at how the world has changed. As a child in the 50’s telephones were big black monsters with rotary dials that were hard wired into the wall. There were still long distance operators, party lines were very common and phone booths were everywhere.

Televisions were just starting to be popular and color was still years away. We had an antenna on the roof and could receive 3, 6, and 10 from Philly. IF we rotated the antenna we could get 2, 5, 9 and 11 from NY (badly however).

No family had two cars and many didn’t even have one. People walked to work or took city buses.

Every student walked to elementary school and went home for lunch. There were no school buses and no school cafeteria.

I think there were probably a grand total of 2 or 3 computers in the whole world. My, my, how times have changed!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Computer Viruses!

No Computer Viruses!
No anti- virus software needed.
By J Lynn

I received this book to review recently and it’s a bit different from most of the technical books I’ve been asked to review. Why is that?  Simple, it’s not very technical at all! It’s also the only book I recall reading that doesn’t have page numbers so I can’t tell you how many pages it has (unless I count them manually).

The concept of the book is telling readers how they can avoid getting computer viruses. Naturally, the focus is on the evils of MSFT and their Windows software. I have always been a strong anti-MSFT advocate and this book is right up my alley.

The author, J Lynn (note there is no period after the J so it isn’t an initial, it’s a name), makes an interesting case for Linux as the preferred No Computer Viruses! operating system and I can’t argue with that. I totally support his/her advocacy of Ubuntu Linux as a great alternative to MSFT OSs.

The most useful part of the book is the well illustrated how-to instructions for upgrading your computer to a non-MSFT OS. Most non-geeks are afraid to get involved with the nitty-gritty of operating systems and this book is a good way of getting them involved.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when we no longer care about an operating system. Computers will be like toasters or TVs and everything just works.

ISBN: 978-1-466-27407-5
Availlable on

Ubuntu version 11.10

Today the latest version of the most successful flavor of Linux was released. Ubuntu v. 11.10 the Oneiric Ocelot, and it's siblings, are now available for download at their web sites. There's usually a crush for the first few days with people try to get their copy ASAP. I'll be downloading both Ubuntu and Kubuntu later today and trying them out on flash drives. Watch this blog for reviews of them when I've had a chance to test them for a while.

As usual, the price for the complete OS and tons of apps is FREE. It's certainly worth a bit of your time to do a download and try out Ubuntu. You have nothing to lose! and have the download links and all of the instructions for creating a flash drive to test with.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Presto printer for everyone from HP

A short time ago I had a post about the Presto print service that I had signed up for so my parents could receive pictures of their great-grandkids. My mother was very happy with it and I was willing to keep them supplied with ink and paper. At almost $15 a month it wasn't cheap but it made her happy so I was willing to pay it.

Now HP is taking the service to a new level. Instead of using a a specific printer that stands alone without a PC attached, the new service will monitor your ink supply and ship you ink when you're low. At $10 a month the Instant Ink service isn't cheap but I guess it's convenient.

But wait!!!! That's not all. The new service will also allow you to subscribe to Conde Nast who will send you unsolicited magazine pages when they want to. Hmmmm, how much ink will that use up? Talk about a license to print money!

I'm sorry HP but this doesn't sound like a good deal to me. I'll stick with Lexmark printers. They are MUCH more cost effective and provide incredible printer versatility.

iOS5 upgrade

I've been reading about the new upgrade from the iFruit company for their iPhones, iPads and iPods, the iOS5 and I'm not impressed. But then again very little they do really impresses me, with the exception of their brilliant marketing.

iOS5 seems like it will be an attempt to catch up to where Android already is. Most of the new "innovative" features are things I've been doing on Android phones and tablets for ages. At least the iFruit company is making a real effort to catch up with their competitors. Unlike MSFT who keeps drifting along, falling farther and farther behind.

If you're an iFruit user then it sounds like iOS5 will be a worthwhile upgrade. The upgrade procedure is far more complicated than the Android upgrade system but maybe the iFruit company will follow the Android lead once again and change that for iOS6.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TripAdvisor Android app

This came across the newswires today and it sounds like a very useful free app. You might want to check it out.

TripAdvisor ®, the world's largest travel site*, today announced the launch of free Mobile City Guides for Android. The new apps, currently available for 20 popular world cities, offer convenient smartphone access to a wealth of detailed destination information including traveler reviews on hotels, restaurants and attractions, as well as suggested itineraries and offline-accessible interactive walking tours.

The Mobile City Guide apps are automatically synced with the freshest TripAdvisor content available so users can access the latest traveler reviews and opinions on the go.  Additionally, the Mobile City Guides offer walking tours and insider tips that can be viewed on the app without a data connection, including in-depth information on neighborhoods, history, culture, architecture, weather and transportation. Access to offline information is particularly useful for travelers abroad, who can download the apps before they go, sparing them from expensive roaming charges.

The Mobile City Guides' interactive walking tours and suggested itineraries offer detailed city insights from TripAdvisor travelers as well as professional writers, publishers and destination marketing organizations.  For example, in Florence, a traveler can follow the best way to see artisan workshops of the historic Oltrarno Quarter, according to a local TripAdvisor Destination Expert, complete with a map, photos, tips and suggestions.

TripAdvisor Mobile City Guide apps are currently available for the following destinations: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Florence, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, and Washington D.C.
"We think travelers are going to love the comprehensive information our free Mobile City Guides provide in popular world cities," said Adam Medros, vice president of global product at TripAdvisor. "A tremendous complement to our popular TripAdvisor site app, these guides offer even more city detail, including itineraries and interactive walking tours."

The Mobile City Guides are available for free in the Android Market. Travelers can also download the free TripAdvisor app, which recently hit 10 million app downloads across all platforms.

More information about the TripAdvisor mobile offerings can be found at

Monday, October 10, 2011

iPhone 4S

Well, the iFruit company did it again. They have their fan base so psyched that the new iPhone 4S just set a pre-order sales record. Over 1 million iPhone 4S phones have been per-ordered blowing the old record away.

I must admit that I am baffled by this phenomenon. Why do over 1,000,000 people feel that they MUST have the new iPhone immediately? Is it that much better than the phone they have today? Probably not, but that doesn't matter. They have the "new phone" fever and there's no known cure.

I'm reminded of the days long ago when people would line up at mid-night at CompUSA for the new version of WinDoze. Why did they do it? For exactly the same reason, they had to have the "upgrade" first.  I don't get it.

The iFruit company's stock is soaring again and that's good for the company. After the loss of Steve Jobs it's good to see them doing well.

Of course MSFT is still in the doldrums and things continue to look dim for them. They have completely lost their mojo  and I think they have no idea how to turn things around. Do you think anyone will be standing in line to buy Win8 next year? I don't either.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


As our regular readers already know, we publish lots of product reviews each month in our ePub, the MCC. Over the next few months we'll be making some significant changes in our review process. Instead of just publishing occasional teasers in our blog we'll be running full reviews here.

By the start of 2012 we'll be using this blog as a way our readers can get access to our reviews much more often.

Make sure you subscribe to this blog and check it often. We're making it worthwhile!!

Steve Jobs and public displays of philanthropy

I have always been a huge fan of philanthropy. Helping others is, to me, one our primary social responsibilities. However, I despise public shows of philanthropy. Anyone who makes a big show of how wonderfully philanthropic they are is doing the right thing (giving) for all of the wrong reasons.

This came to mind today because of the arguments I've been reading about concerning Steve Jobs giving to the needy, or not giving as the case may be. The late Mr. Jobs giving to charity was his personal business and not the subject for conjecture by others.

I applaud Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for their willingness to share their wealth with the less fortunate. I deplore the fact that they are such publicity hounds about it.

Rest in peace Mr. Jobs and don't worry about the noise makers here on earth who are just looking at making themselves look better. In reality, they are making themselves look small and petty.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free tax software

We received this announcement this week:
2nd Story Software® has released TaxACT 2011 Free Federal and Deluxe Editions. TaxACT is the only year-round Web-based federal tax planning and preparation solution, releasing preview versions in October and final versions in early January.
"Preview versions of TaxACT give taxpayers an edge in year-end tax planning and savings," said Lance Dunn, President of 2nd Story Software. "TaxACT calculates 2011 taxes and alerts users of potential savings that require action by December 31."
Tax legislation passed at the end of 2010 makes year-end planning more important this year. "The legislation impacts 2011 returns, but when the laws were passed, taxpayers were naturally focused on changes affecting 2010 returns they were about to file," said Dunn. "TaxACT's federal interview shows users where they can still save money on their 2011 return."
Use of TaxACT 2011 Free Federal Edition and Deluxe preview versions is free. Everyone can prepare, print and e-file their federal taxes free with Free Federal Edition. Deluxe desktop users don't have to pay until final versions are released in early January, and Online Deluxe users don't have to pay until they print or e-file their return.
TaxACT makes tax calculations, year-end planning and early preparation of 2011 returns fast and easy:
  • Eliminate errors and save time by importing key data from last year's return with Express Import™ options.
  • TaxACT Life Events guide you through the tax implications of more than 35 events, including natural disasters, filing for the first time, college and unemployment. Deluxe Life Event Tips provide key tax information and reminders throughout the interview.
  • Tax and technical answers are available every step of the way in the enhanced Answer Center. Access the expanded Tax Glossary through nearly 300 linked terms throughout the interview.
  • Enhanced Bookmarks make tax planning and early preparation of returns even easier. Add a personalized Bookmark to any interview question and return to it whenever you want with a single click.
  • More money and time-saving tools are included in Deluxe. In addition to importing last year's TaxACT return, Donation Assistant® helps maximize tax savings for non-cash donations with audit-backed values for more than 1,300 household items. Tax Calculator shows how changes to various parts of your tax return can affect 2011, 2012 and 2013 federal taxes without actually changing data in the return.
Everyone who registers for or purchases TaxACT Deluxe or Ultimate Bundle (Deluxe + State) before January 1, 2012 receives free tax and technical phone support for the 2011 tax year upon product payment. Online users also lock in a 20% discount by registering early.
All information entered or imported into preview versions will automatically transfer to final versions releasing in early January. Final versions will include any last-minute tax law changes, final IRS forms, and several new and enhanced features. The IRS will begin processing e-filed returns in mid-January.
State editions will also begin releasing in early January as forms become available. In the meantime, 2nd Story Software will soon announce a mobile application with useful tax tools and information for TaxACT users.

Apple products and soccer

I have always valued soccer as a sport and the iFruit company's products for similar reasons.

Soccer is an excellent outdoor sport that provides healthy exercise for the many people, young and old, who were born without hand-eye coordination. All you have to do is run around and try to kick a big, round ball. Anyone can do it and it takes very little real talent. Unlike baseball, basketball, golf and American football, all of which require hand-eye coordination and some level of skill.

The iFruit company makes technology for people who are the Consumer Electronics equivalent of soccer players. You can use a computer, or a music player, or any other device they make and not have to have any real technology skill. You can be a complete technological idiot and still function.

Personally, I'll stick with baseball and real PCs. If you're a soccer fan and an iFruit user, then God bless you and may you enjoy what you're capable of doing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest in peace Steve Jobs

I just heard the news that Steve Jobs has died at 56 years old. His long battle with cancer is finally over and we hope he is at peace. Mr. Jobs was a brilliant innovator and the greatest marketer of his generation. No words can capture the impact he had on technology, he was an absolute giant.

This blog and our ePub were often critical of his company but never of him. Our respect for him and his accomplishments has no bounds. He was one of the most brilliant men we have ever known.

Lexmark MapQuest solution

We received this announcement today and thought it would be of interest to our readers.  Imagine printing out maps for a trip without using a computer, just an A-I-O printer! How cool is that!

Lexmark International, Inc. (NYSE: LXK) today announced three new MapQuest SmartSolutions that make printing directions, traffic information and locating nearby points of interest easy and quick, directly from a Lexmark all-in-one (AIO) touch screen printer.

Benefits of Lexmark’s three new MapQuest SmartSolutions include:
•    MapQuest:  Enables users to find and print a map and directions to most anywhere in the world directly from the Lexmark AIO; no need to turn on your computer.
•    MapQuest Traffic: Allows you to view and print traffic conditions before you head off to that big meeting.
•    MapQuest Concierge: Enables small business owners, like a bed and breakfast, to set up a station where guests can use the “Concierge” to look for restaurants or nearby attractions – without having to pay staff a concierge position. Guests can then quickly print directions to the destination.

To learn more about the Lexmark MapQuest SmartSolutions, click here, or visit
To learn more about Lexmark, please visit For more information on Lexmark, see the Lexmark Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

iFruit Siri

The iFruit company announced their new Siri Intelligent Assistant today and I am underwhelmed. Once again the iFruit company has done a superb job of hyping technology that will enthrall the unwashed masses. I have always been a huge fan of the PDA concept and have used one every day of my life for many, many years.

Will the new iFruit Siri change how people use their devices? Possibly, but only because they haven't used the existing capabilities of their products before. This is how I feel about the announcement: God bless the iFruit company. They keep the media and the fan boys interested and that makes us all better.Keep the fires burning!

As for me, I'll stick with the freedom Android gives and enjoy their apps freely (pun intended).

WiFi on the road

I've been on the road constantly for the past three weeks, with another 5 days ahead of me. It came as no surprise that finding good WiFi access has often been my biggest challenge.

For the past week I have been staying in an old factory town in northwest NJ and it is WiFi challenged. The only hotel in a town of close to 20k people has "free WiFi" and it works...... mostly. But I'm only there to sleep so it's of limited use.

The building I'm in most of the time was built in the 50's and I swear it's built out of a material that absorbs radio waves!! Cell phone coverage is very poor and WiFi  nonexistent. It's a real problem when we have all come to depend on cell phones and the internet to communicate.

Fortunately I found two solutions that have been able to keep me sane. The first is the wonderful Verizon PC770 Expresscard modem. As long as I use it near an east facing window I can get a usable signal and I can get online.

The second solution is even more elegant. I've been testing the new Verizon LG VS910 4G smartphone and it's a lifesaver. It has a 4G Mobile Hotspot app that works remarkably well. Because the Hotspot capability is a real power drainer, I plug the charger in, put the phone on a window sill and have the capability of connecting four devices to it. I have a secure, ultra-compact WiFi server working that allows me to have excellent connections with all of my WiFi devices.

My suggestion to all traveling geeks is to make sure your next smartphone has Hotspot capability!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Prresto printer service

First of all, let me apologize for not posting to this blog for several days. Unfortunately, we lost my mother last week and I have been tied up with very serious family matters. It has been very difficult for my family and I didn't have the time for business.

The reason I'm calling this post the Presto printer service is because that was one one of the big surprises I encountered this week. I signed up for the Presto printer service at several years ago for my mother as a Mother's Day present. I wanted to help her stay in touch with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At the time she kept calling it "that thing you got me" and wanted nothing to do with it. After a bit of coaxing, she finally let me hook it up for her and I asked her to give it a try.

I added all of our immediate relatives to her contact list and asked them to send her pictures and emails. Every once in a great while she'd tell me she was out of ink or paper and I'd have some delivered to her. I never really checked to see how many emails she received but she would occasionally mention something she'd received.

Today we were cleaning out her drawers and closets and found ALL of the pictures she'd received. She had saved them off in folders so she could look at them over and over.

"That thing" turned out to be a wonderful link for her and her family far away. Thank you Presto for making my mother's life a bit brighter.