Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free VIA mini-ITX eBook

We received this offer today and know everyone will want to get this book. We've built several great Mini-ITX projects over the years and love them all.

VIA Celebrates 10 Years of Innovation Inspired by the Mini-ITX with the Launch of "Small is Beautiful: 10 Years of Mini-ITX" eBook
"Small is Beautiful: 10 Years of Mini-ITX" captures the highlights of the first ten years as well as the exciting future of the Mini-ITX platform 

VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient x86 processor platforms, today announced the release of "Small is Beautiful: 10 Years of Mini-ITX", an eBook celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the groundbreaking achievements and innovations inspired by the Mini-ITX form factor. Included is a look back at the history of the platform, past mods and how the industry was inspired and reactedto these revolutionary small motherboards, and a look ahead to what lies in store for VIA's beloved Mini-ITX.

The Mini-ITX VT6010 reference design created by Robert Kuo, Assistant Vice President, VIA Technologies, Inc., was originally launched on November 6th, 2001 and from this humble beginning the 17cm x 17cm Mini-ITX form factor has gone on to revolutionize the industry over the past ten years. Becoming an industry standard along the way, the Mini-ITX has been a springboard of inspiration for a large community of modders and companies. Integrating the key computing components on the small Mini-ITX form factor was a catalyst behind the industry's movement towards compact, power efficient computing and the death of the beige box.

"Small is Beatiful is above all a celebration of the tremendous creative spirit shown by the modders and enthusiasts who got their hands on a Mini-ITX board and made their visions realities," said Richard Brown, Vice President of Marketing, VIA Technologies Inc. "It was they who demonstrated that PCs no longer needed to be big, beige and boring, rather they could be small, stylish and silent instead."

The "Small is Beautiful: 10 Years of Mini-ITX" eBook is available for download in either PDF or eBook friendly tablet/Smartphone reader formats. To download your copy, please go to:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eating season

Ah, eating season has begun in earnest. (Halloween barely provides appetizers, unless one is dedicated to various shapes and colors of sugar.) Black Friday has dawned and set. CyberMonday followed suit. Heck, I’m just about out of opportunities for all of Black November. That means that it’s shopping season.

No more picking up this, adding that to my shopping cart as I breeze without focus through stores and websites. This is IT, time to buckle down and finalize the data in each cell in my gift-giving spreadsheet.

What a relief to know that I’m scheduled for the GDGT LIVE Tech Showcase in San Francisco just as Santa gets desperate for help. I am so looking forward to the opportunity to see (with my fingers of course) the latest gadgets and be re-inspired with shopping fervor.

I regard supporting the private-sector economy as part of my civic duty, and am ready to leap to the rescue of world markets. And just in case you haven’t finished your shopping yet, tune in again at the end of the week to see what new gadget I can’t live without.

Nokia news

There's more bad news from Nokia. We saw an announcement yesterday that Nokia was going to lay off another 17,000 workers world wide in the next year to try to cut costs by 1 billion euros. That's a lot of workers and a lot of money. It's been a long a steady fall for the company that once dominated the cell phone industry.

My first cell phone was a Nokia, and it served me well for many years. But rivals have introduced new products and services much faster than Nokia did and they have fallen to the wayside. In our opinion there is no way they will ever be able to compete against companies like the iFruit company and Samsung.

Hopefully Nokia will be able to make the adjustments needed to stay a viable company producing products or services that people will want to buy again. We wish them luck.

Monday, November 28, 2011

CyberMonday is here

CyberMonday has arrived and it's projected to be the biggest online shopping day of the year. My inboxes were all filled with ads and come-ons from dozens of etailers trying to get my attention. It was just like the Thanksgiving Day glut of ads in the newspaper, except more environmentally sound.

Will I be shopping today? Probably yes. I still have a few gifts to buy and if the deals are there I might as well take advantage of them!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CyberMonday starts today, not on Monday

It had to happen. Just as Black Friday has now starts on Thursday at many stores CyberMonday is starting on Sunday. Several major etailers, Amazon and Best Buy are starting their sales today.

Here's the official word from

Black Friday may be over, but we've still got the party going. Cyber Monday Deals Week starts today, and we're putting our best deals right here. Some Cyber Monday deals are in limited supply, and all will go quickly--but don't worry if you miss one, because we'll keep adding new ones throughout the day, all week long. Plus don't forget to subscribe to our deals e-mails to get daily updates.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The One That got Away

It has happened at more than one so, so none of you vendors out there need to wonder, “Is my slip showing?”

I’m at a trade show. There are so many vendors and goodies that I can barely list them in the time available. But I’m doing my level best to get a balanced picture and an information package from each and every vendor.

Things are going fine with my time budget of 3.2679 minutes per company when I come upon a rep engaged in earnest conversation with another attendee. OK, that’s fair. Many vendors have learned how to include more than one listener in their spiel and to accommodate late comers to the conversation and then incorporate individual questions.

But these two are engaged (married?) In deep and exclusive dialog. I cannot get a word in to just ask for a card or press kit, neither visible at the booth. I go on to another vendor, then return. Conversation unchanged.

After two or three iterations, my path takes me onward. I’m still wondering: were they discussing last night’s game or was the vendor chatting up an angel who will take the company to the next level? There’s another story I didn’t get.

Oh, well. If you noticed who I am, please email me contact details and information about the product you’d most rather be reading about here instead of a rerun of my favorite trade show pet peeve.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday and ShopSavvy App

Now that Black Friday is over it's time to look at the state of sales of CE products this year. Once the final sales figures are in I'm convinced we'll find that sales of many products remain stagnant. It will be wonderful if I'm wrong and then I'll be very happy to admit it.

I recently heard of an App that Smartphone users can use to help them fing good prices. Here is some information on the ShopSavvy app:

WHAT: Mobile shopping is expected to double to this year, according to Forrester Research, and that means more consumers than ever will be relying on ShopSavvy, the smartphone application that gives users unparalleled access to products at the lowest-available prices. With 20 million downloads and 10 million active users, ShopSavvy remains the leading barcode scanner/price comparison app. The just-released ShopSavvy 5 offers a host of enhancements, including one-tap purchasing that lets users scan a product at one location and buy from another – with one touch.

HOW IT WORKS: You scan the barcode of the product you are interested in purchasing and the app pulls up where the item can be found cheapest in your area, by geography and/or price. The app also tells you where the product is currently in stock and if the store you are standing in has a price-matching guarantee -- so you schlep no farther than necessary to get an amazing deal! With new one-tap purchasing, you can buy the item without ever leaving ShopSavvy. And the ShopSavvy Deals tab brings users a stream of special offers, promotions and coupons.

NEW TRENDS: One-tap purchasing. ShopSavvy 5 offers easy in-app purchasing from a wide range of retailer websites, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble. With one-tap shopping, ShopSavvy users who scan an item in a store and see a better deal online can purchase it immediately without ever leaving the app. All it takes is the one-time entry of payment information in ShopSavvy's convenient mobile wallet. It’s much like one-click ordering through Amazon -- the difference being that ShopSavvy search results are neutral and enable consumers to compare prices from a wide range of retailers.
Social shopping. If you find a great deal somewhere (perhaps a special Black Friday weekend sale), you can easily share it with other ShopSavvy users. You can take a picture of any product and add your own deals and discoveries to the ShopSavvy database to share with millions of other users. It's Wikipedia-style crowdsourcing for shoppers. The user community can help you save money and vice versa.

WHO: This app has the potential to save your viewers hundreds of dollars, and hours of time, during the busy holiday shopping season. We can put you in contact with ShopSavvy users in DMAs nationwide to demonstrate the app or be interviewed. The app’s co-creator, Alexander Muse, is available for phone, satellite or in-person interviews.

WHERE: With advance notice, we would be happy to facilitate a price-comparison/shopping segment at a convenient local Walmart or Best Buy store.

VISUALS: - Your reporter testing the app to find the best deals
- Shoppers schlepping from store to store, hauling bags
- People scanning electronics, toys, games, etc.

TRY IT YOURSELF: ShopSavvy is available on iPhone, Android and Windows phones. Download ShopSavvy for free in Apple’s App Store:

WHY: Because it’s time for our smartphones to harness the power of the Internet to save us time and money!

WHAT ELSE: Because ShopSavvy users are on track to scan tens of millions of items this month, ShopSavvy can predict the hot holiday trends. We can tell you exactly which products are the most scanned in your DMA in any product category – just ask!

The company's technology is licensed by hundreds of companies, including Walmart, CNET, PriceGrabber, Consumer Reports and The New York Times to power their shopping apps.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

We're taking a Thanksgiving break to spend some time with family. We'll be back online after the Holiday!!

US Cellular Thanksgiving Day only sale

We received this offer today and want to pass it on:

I wanted to let you and your readers know that on Thanksgiving U.S. Cellular is offering a one-day, web-only promotion for customers looking to switch to U.S. Cellular and current customers who want to add a new line to their service. The Android-powered LG Genesis and HTC Merge, and the BlackBerry Torch 9850, will be free after a $100 mail-in rebate. U.S. Cellular is also waiving the activation fee and providing free shipping.

In addition to getting a free phone now, new customers can also join the only rewards program in wireless and be well on their way to a second free phone with the 2,000 point bonus they receive when they sign up for “My Account” within 14 days of starting service. Current U.S. Cellular customers who add additional lines will also receive the 2,000 point bonus. Customers on Belief Plans are recognized for their loyalty and get points for doing simple things like paying their wireless bill on time, adding a line or referring friends and family. Points can be used for new phones faster, accessories, ringtones and monthly service charges.

More information will be available tomorrow at 

Google Chromebook updates

Google has announced several updates to the Chromebook products. The first update is for the software itself. We updated our Samsung Series 5 Chromebook this week and noticed only a few minor tweaks, nothing earthshaking.

The biggest change is the price drop. Both the Acer and Samsung models have had their list price cut to $299 and that should help sales. The original prices were $429 to $499 and they seemed to be over priced compared to competing Netbooks.

Personally I have developed a real love for these quick little Netbooks. If you haven't tried one yet you're in for a treat. They do what they do, which is surf the web, very well and that's exactly what I want them to do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New VIA ARTiGO kit

We received an email from VIA Technologies announcing their latest do-it-yourself PC kit. We've built several of their kits in the past and they are always great little projects. If you're i the mood to build a very small PC we can always recommend the ARTiGO kits. Here's the announcement:

VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient x86 processor platforms, today announced the launch of the VIA ARTiGO A1150 a sub-liter dual core DIY PC kit for enthusiasts who want to taste the next generation of ultra-compact desktop computing.

The VIA ARTiGO A1150 is one of the smallest full featured DIY PC kits available today, squeezing an impressive range of features that include a 1.0GHz dual core VIA EdenX2processor, HD video support, HDMI and VGA display connectivity, Gigabit networking, Wi-Fi Support and five USB ports, all into a palm-sized PC chassis. The VIA ARTiGO A1150 is ideal for a variety of applications in the home or office, including home server, media streaming and surveillance applications or great as a regular desktop PC, using only a fraction of the physical real estate.

"VIA redefinesdual core low power compact computing, bringing all the features of a regular desktop PC into a form factor that needs to be seen to be believed," said Epan Wu, Head of the VIA Embedded Platform Division, VIA Technologies, Inc. "VIA has a long history in creating leading edge form factor systems, and the VIA ARTiGO A1150 pushes the bounds for ultra-compact desktop computing."

VIA ARTiGO A1150: Compact Computing Redefined
The mere 5.7" x 3.9" x 2" (14.6 cm x 9.9 cm x 5.2 cm)VIA ARTiGO A1150 is powered by a dual core 1.0GHz VIA Eden X2 processor, offering a high performance native 64-bit computing experience while remaining within a low power thermal envelope. The VIA Eden X2 processor is joined by the VIA VX900H media system processor, a fully integrated all-in-one chipset that brings exceptional multimedia experience to small form factor devices including hardware acceleration for the latest HD video codecs including H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2/4 at screen resolutions of up to 1080p.

Front and back panel I/O includes HDMI and VGA ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, five USB ports including one USB device port, three audio jacks with optional wireless IEEE 802.11 b/g/n and SD card reader modules.

For more information on the ARTiGO A1150 please visit:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tablet sales projections

We've just read some interesting predictions on sales of Tablet computers in the all important 4th quarter. Since this quarter is when most people do their big holiday shopping, it's crucial for most manufacturers.

As usual, the iFruit company is still the market leader in the category with 9 million projected sales (down from 11 million, btw). The new Amazon Kindle Fire really is on fire with projected sales up to 6 million from the original 4 million. That's a really significant number and it's surprisingly large. I can see why the iFruit company keeps suing Amazon and Google trying to keep their sales lead in the category.

The bad news for all of the other makers of Tablets is that their sales continue to sputter. The Tablet/eReader category really is dominated by the two big players and everyone else seems to be a distant also ran.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

December issue

The December issue of our monthly ePub has been emailed to all of our subscribers and it's a great issue. As usual, there are interesting articles, great reviews and more insight than you will get anywhere else.

If you want to subscribe, just let me know.

Shopping for new technology- Part 2

By Robert Sanborn


Looking for a smart phone is even more difficult as looking for a new digital camera as not only do you decide on what phone to purchase, you have to decide what service provider you want to be committed with over the next two years.  Making matters worse is the fact that you have four different phone operating systems to deal with and like most everything else in the technology world, they don’t like to play nice with each other and it is an entirely new technology you have to learn.  For those of you that still use Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) you will find that the new world of Smartphones is nothing like what Palm or Windows had in mind. You might as well as toss them out and start over.

The first thing to think about when shopping for a new phone is your contract and whether you are stuck with a particular company.  I have been using a cell phone since the mid 80s and have gone through a number of companies but when it came time for a new phone, the first thing I did was to think about where I make most of my calls from and how much trouble it was to make that call.  I used to travel around the country a bit with some friends from NY and as we hit all the remote locations we would see who had the best cell phone coverage. Today, it is a whole lot easier both thanks to the spread of cell phone towers around the world as well as the websites that the companies offer to check coverage in a particular area. Seven years ago when I had to give up Sprint, it was because I got tired of either not having a signal at my parent’s house or when I went to visit my cousin having to leave her house, and stand on the other side of the street to get enough of a signal to make a call. So let coverage and customer service of the cell phone company be your first decision when getting a new phone.

Once you do that and if all you want to do is to make calls and have fun with your phone, than anything you pick will probably be ok. Just remember you will have to live with it for two years, and unless you already have a smartphone you are upgrading, you will end up paying more per month for those data and internet minutes.  I know people that pay over $200 per month for their smartphone minutes and think nothing of it. Me, I thought anything more than $50 was excessive and unfortunately, I see that it will cost me more.

The next thing to think about is what you are going to do with the smartphone and the good news is that while these phones are quite a bit different from each other, the basic functions on all of them are pretty similar. They make calls, have digital cameras, built in GPS location and route planning, will do WiFi if you don’t want to use your data plan minutes for surfing the web, have Blue Tooth for connecting a head set and can connect to read your email.  What is even better is that they now nearly all use a standard Micro-USB charging connector so you don’t have to buy a new charger when getting a new phone.

Where the big difference is will be how they do it and what operating system you go with.  Google makes Android, Microsoft makes Windows, Apple makes IOS, and Research in Motion makes Blackberry OS.  One thing you need to watch for is that as transitions are made with operating systems, not all phones will keep up with the upgrades. For example, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 is a major upgrade from Phone 7 and so it has a ton of new features. And you can spend hours listening to the sales people telling you why each one is better than the other.  What you have to do is to think a bit harder about what you want to do with your phone when it relates to email, contacts, notes, and the internet. Make sure the phone you are looking at will actually work with your files, your documents, and your address book.

As to phones, the Apple iPhone 4S is still the top of the heap when it comes to features, reliability, and outright coolness. It has so many things going for it that it has been the target of choice for not only consumers, but for other vendors to see what they need to do with their phones. If I was going to go with Android, then the Samsung Galaxy S would have been my first choice. The displays on these Samsung phones with their AMOLED glass screens is awesome. For a Windows Phone, the choice is the Samsung Focus S but it is not available yet. You might want a Windows phone for a couple of reasons; one being that it will integrate better with Microsoft Office if you use that and second, this gives you a sneak peak at what Windows on your desktop is going to look like going forward. And if you are going to keep your emails, address book and notes on your phone, then turn on the security features and keep your life your own.  I am leaning toward the Windows phone but then again, need to get one in my hands to see how well it works.  Happy shopping.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shopping for new technology

By Robert Sanborn

Ahh, the joys of shopping for new technology.  I am in the middle of two such research projects; one for a new digital camera, and one for a new smartphone. This is a triple cursed time for doing this as I wait for the horde of trick-or-treat goblins to appear on my doorstep.  Black Friday is less than a month away now,

Christmas is two months away (despite what Cracker Barrel and the other stores may think by having their decorating already done) and worst of all for me, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is two and a half months away.  To make it even worse, my wife has decided that I should look at the December 2011 issue of Consumer Reports which is the annual electronics issue that despite all the research that I do, I really haven’t finished it until I look at Consumer Reports.  So, let’s start with the digital camera.

Digital Camera
My current digital camera was considered one of the best superzoom cameras of its day. It is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 with a then wopping five megapixel images and an incredible 12X optical zoom with image stabilization. It has been an incredible camera and I have the images to prove it having carried it several times to places ranging from Enfield to Jingdezhen.  I loved it, got used to it, learned how things worked, and how to take some wonderful pictures and it was easy but difficult to replace my film cameras with it.  But unfortunately, after long years of service, a couple of hard knocks, and many failed batteries, it is time to replace it.

So, in July, I started to research digital cameras and finally settled on three finalists.  Panasonic’s DMC-FZ100; Canon PowerShot SX30IS, and Sony Cybershot DSC HX100V.  All have some great features, some interesting features, and some nonexistent features.  Doing the research was actually kind of fun as there are a ton of websites to help you and then you finally go to the store to see how the camera feels in your hands. I went to a couple of different stores to look at the cameras and one thing I learned very quickly is that the answers you might get in the stores and the ones you get online don’t often match.  Another is that as you read the glowing reviews, it makes it difficult to choose even after looking at the scoring results from the different websites.  One of the other curses of coming from using a film camera over the years is that you get used to having things like lens filters for dealing with smog in places like Mexico City (or Lost Angeles); a hot shoe for using an external flash to compensate for the pathetic short range of on board flash units, and even a simple thing like a lens hood so that when you have to shoot with the sun facing you, you have some semblance of help in preventing the sun spots from ruining a good image.  The final thing that eventually did in the Canon and Panasonic cameras was the fact that when you look at the reviewer’s comments on the quality of the image from those particular cameras, you will find that they were near the bottom of the ratings.  I had thought that taking a picture ended up being all about the quality of the image.  If all you are interested in is a snapshot of a scene to just say you were there, then any camera will do the job and maybe not as well as some of the new smartphones that are out there now like that Apple iPhone 4S. But that is another issue.

So, the finalist that I came up with was the Sony but while it had a number of really neat things like a monster 30X zoom lens and GPS tagging of your photos; it did not have a hot shoe, filter capability, or lens hood nor could I capture an image in any format other than .jpg.  For many photographers, .jpg is their last choice because of the nature of what jpg does and that is to uncompress and compress the image every time you open it up and save it. Each time you do that, you end up losing some of the pixels in the image because that is how .jpg compression works to give you smaller file sizes.

So, I did nothing and stewed about how unhappy I was with my choices and decided the middle of this month to revisit my research.  The websites I have been using are really full of great information and I am listing a few of them for you here.

And of course, there are more like PC World, Cnet, ZD Net, and others.

One of the first things I do when researching a camera is to see when the camera was introduced and also when it was available on the store shelves as I find that as the manufactures constantly update their offerings, when I went back to review things, low and behold, Panasonic and Canon have upgraded their cameras and what really surprised me that both of them reduced the size of the digital imaging sensors to capture better pictures. Both Canon and Panasonic went from a 14 to 12 megapixel camera and the quality of the images in both improved significantly. Someone was listening.  The Canon PowerShot SX40HS will be available mid-November and the Panasonic DMC-FZ150K probably in December. Both will be over $400. Now to go see how they feel in actual use.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The death of the music CD

It looks like the death of the music CD is just around the corner. It's been coming for a while and 2012 may just be the year the CD finally dies. Now that the iFruit company is the largest music retailer in the country, they recently pushed Wally World into second place, it's inevitable that digital downloads are the only way people will get their music.

I remember when every mall had several huge music and video stores, not any more. That was before everyone had high speed internet in their homes and smartphones in their pockets. Now we all have instant access to whatever we want to watch or listen to, there's no need to go somewhere and buy a physical disc. Just as apps have replaced physical software for most users, digital music will be the only way people listen to music in the future.

I still have boxes of old LPs and LaserDiscs somewhere in the garage. I guess I'll have to make some room for all of my CDs also.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Friday specials

We received this from Karen Thomas of Thomas PR:


SENSOGLOVE: 10% off SensoGlove digital golf glove and FREE shipping at from November 25th - December 2nd.  Use promo code: Christmas2011.

IBIKE:  $100 off any iBike Dash Power (Black) bicycle trainer computer systems:  iSport ($299, normally $399), iPro ($459, normally $559), iAero ($559, normally $659), and iBike Dash +Power ($649, normally $749) at Friday, Nov. 25 - Sunday, Nov 27.

ARTRAGE:  ArtRage for iPad painting software for $4.99 (previously $6.99), ArtRage 3.5 Studio for $19.90 (previously $40), ArtRage 3.5 Studio Pro for $49.90 (previously $80) at: November 16, 2011 - December 25, 2011.

SPEAKAL:  30% off all iPod/iPhone docking station speaker systems products (includes iHog, iKurv, mi-Soccer, and more).  Use Coupon code: BF201101

IGRILL:  Buy an iGrill Bluetooth meat thermometer at and receive a free iGrill Apron cover on Friday, November 25th only! Choose from I Love My Mom's Cooking, World's Best Chef, Kiss the Cook, or World's Best Dad.

KIDZ GEAR:  6 AM – 9 AM PST ONLY Fri, November 25, 2011 on  Standard Kidz Gear Wired Headphones (CH68KG01) discounted at $12.99 (normally$19.99)
* FREE Carry Bag (KGBOSBAG) on All Headphone Purchases
* FREE Volume Limit Splitter Cable (S68APCBL) with the purchase of:
      Two (2) Apple Compatible Volume Limit Wired Headphones (CH68AP01) or
      Two (2) Standard Wired Headphones (CH68KG01)
6am - 9am PST ONLY Fri, November 25, 2011 at
Standard Kidz Gear Wired Headphones (CH68KG01) discounted at $12.99 (MSRP:$19.99)
* FREE Shipping on All Headphone Purchases
* FREE Carry Bag (KGBOSBAG) on All Headphone Purchases
* FREE Volume Limit Splitter Cable (S68APCBL) with the purchase of:
      Two (2) Apple Compatible Volume Limit Wired Headphones (CH68AP01) or
      Two (2) Standard Wired Headphones (CH68KG01)

THE GREAT KAT: 50% Off The Great Kat Metal/Classical Package Plus FREE U.S. Shipping!  ONLY $10 for Great Kat Metal/Classical Package (normally $20):  includes BEETHOVEN SHREDS CD, The Great Kat Metal Guitar Goddess 8x10 Color Photo, & BEETHOVEN'S GUITAR SHRED DVD! Available November 16 - November 26, 2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

IObit Advanced System Care 5 released

I have used IObit's utility software for may years and have always found it to be excellent software. This announcement came out today:

The number of PC users worldwide continues to grow at a tremendous rate, and as the clock ticks towards 2012, owning a PC is almost an essential part of life in the 21st century as more and more businesses take their services online. PC maintenance and security is vital to keep things running smoothly, however performing a regular clean-up and maintenance routine manually is a time-consuming and laborious task, even for advanced, more technical users. Basic users can find this daunting, even confusing, and this could have dangerous consequences even paralyzing the PC with costly repercussions. IObit's Advanced SystemCare takes the pain out of the process, and has become the software of choice for many businesses and consumers wanting to optimise, clean, protect and repair their computers.

Ever since the software was first launched in 2005, Advanced SystemCare has evolved into a fully-comprehensive suite of tools, and the launch of version 5 brings a host of improvements, some new features and enhanced usability. The powerful new version retains the many features seen in previous releases that have surpassed 130 million downloads globally.

Advanced SystemCare 5 pides its functions into four distinct categories. The first, Quick Care performs a series of rapid checks that can be run on a daily basis; the second, Deep Care provides a thorough analysis of the PC's state of health and carries out security and vulnerability fixes, tweaks and improvements, defrags the registry and cleans-up junk files; the third section, Toolbox, contains over 20 easy-to-use utilities offering even more PC maintenance power and the fourth section, Turbo Boost, turns offnon-essential resources with one-click, delivering even more performance capacity when it's needed most.

The key new feature addition in this release is Active Boost, technology that actively runs in the background intelligently managing system resources in real-time, constantly detecting inactive resources and optimizing CPU and RAM usage.

Advanced SystemCare 5 is launched with the following new features and improvements:
  • Brand-new architecture and source code allowing compatibility with both 32 and 64-bit systems
  • Enhanced User Interface design to improve the user experience
  • New cloud technology ensures the database is kept updated at all times
  • Improved UI technology to ensure a faster opening time and less resource usage
  • Quick and Deep Care modules are enhanced with more powerful clean-up and optimization functions
  • Increased functionality in Turbo Boost mode, with Work and Game options added
  • New Active Boost function for real-time optimization.
Penny Duan, IObit's Director of Business Development is excited about the launch, "Advanced SystemCare has grown to become an industry leader and has been well-received by both professional reviewers and consumers. Over time and with continual usage, PCs can suffer from all sorts of bloatware, malware and junk that's unknowingly loaded or installed, and version 5 gives users even more control back over their computer's health. The software, although more thorough and powerful than ever before, is even quicker and easier to use, and the cool new features in this release make for a much better, overall user experience".
Advanced SystemCare 5 is compatible with Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000.

The software is available in 2 versions:
  • Advanced SystemCare 5 Free performs basic PC care and protection
  • Advanced SystemCare 5 Pro provides the full suite of tools and functionality.
The Pro software is $19.95 for a full 1-year license.
To download Advanced SystemCare 5, go to

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

COMDEXvirtual 2011

I've been spending the afternoon at COMDEXvirtual 2011. Since it's all online I saved myself from having to fly to Las Vegas, spending nights in a hotel on the strip, going to parties and press events. Oh no, I love doing all of those things! Thank goodness CES is still live in January and I'll get to do all of the things I love to do.

Back to COMDEXvirtual. It's a microscopically small event with only about 20 vendors having a presence. That's a far cry from the number of vendors at CES or any of the other trade shows we attend during the year.

So far today I've "visited" Logitech, Microsoft, Dell, Corel and Symantec. I'll be hitting the other vendors this afternoon. Since this is a "cloud" event the vendors are showing appropriate products aimed at online users. MSFT is pushing Office 365 hard and making some offers for small businesses who lack IT departments. I tend to be very wary of having MSFT have complete control of my business data on their servers. Maybe I'm just paranoid about MSFT. After all I trust Google with much of my business data so why not MSFT? Maybe someday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

You're not from around here.

I was trained many years ago to eliminate any trace of a regional accent from my speech. Why? Simple, I was an Air Traffic Controller and way back then we were taught to speak so clearly that anyone could understand us without having to repeat what we said. That means, obviously, getting rid of any regional speech idiosyncratic patterns.

The basic concept is: no one can tell where you are from when you speak. I continue to try to make my speech as clearly understood as possible. I wish everyone felt the same way. Unfortunately many, if not most, people want to emphasize their regional speech patterns. Give me strength!!! It isn't cute people, it's idiotic.

Speak clearly and without accent and you will succeed in life. Lapse into regional idiomatic speech and you will fail.

Free TaxACT app

We received this press release today announcing a new free app for iPhones and Android phones and tablets. 
TaxACT Central, the new companion mobile application for TaxACT users, is available for free download in the App Store℠ and Android™ Market. Compatible with iPhone®, iPod touch®, and Android devices, TaxACT Central provides on-the-go access to valuable time and money-saving information.
TaxACT Central can be used as a companion to the recently released Preview Versions of TaxACT 2011 Free Federal and Deluxe Editions.
"Whether you start your TaxACT return in October or April, TaxACT Central gives you mobile access to tax information that can be used throughout the year," said Lance Dunn, CEO of 2nd Story Software®.
TaxACT Central includes:
  • An interactive tax return checklist with forms and information needed to prepare your taxes.
  • A Help Center with free answers to common tax and technical questions
  • 24/7 status of your federal and state returns after e-filing in TaxACT (the IRS will begin processing e-filed 2011 returns in January)
  • Daily tax tips from America's all-time best selling tax guide, J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide
  • A federal tax calendar with key dates by month, fiscal year or taxpayer type
  • The option to register for TaxACT Online 2011 Free Federal Edition or Deluxe (special Deluxe pricing plus free phone support for the 2011 tax season are being offered for a limited time)
For more information or to download TaxACT Central, visit

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 matured 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. Rest in peace Netbooks, I loved you way back when.

Many thanks to the iFruit company for creating the iPads, they have caught people’s imagination and have created a whole new industry. Whether very many of the non-iFruit products will thrive, or even survive, is still open to question. The iFruit company dominates Tablet sales at this point but that an all change quickly in this business. As a matter of fact, the very health of all of the iFruit company’s products are questionable since the loss of Mr. Jobs. Without his vision they may stubble in the future, much as they did the last time he left the company many years ago. For now, we’re still enjoying the Tablet ride and will continue to review them regularly.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where has the PDA gone?

I recently had a conversation with one of our writers about PDAs. It turns out she is a big fan of the old Pocket PC PDAs and was wondering out loud if anyone still makes that type of product. Since I am also a big fan of PDAs, I use an ancient Palm Tunsten every day, I was the logical person to talk to.

After much conversation we decided that there are probably still lots of companies making PDA products but doubted that there were any Pocket PCs being made. It became our mutual opinion that Smartphones had totally replaced PDAs for almost everyone that had used them in the past.

My Smartphones link to my Google calendar, my address book, my email and so much more. The Smartphones of today do everything PDAs did in the past and so much more. PDAs aren't dead and gone, they've grown up and become mature, adult Smartphones.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Free eBook

I received this information from Rich Oppenheim, purveyor of and thought it was worth passing on:

We're proud to announce that we've just released a new e-book called The Myth of the Garage and Other Minor Surprises. It's a collection of our favorite columns for Fast Company magazine.

In the book, we tackle some of the most (and least) important issues in the modern business world: Why the 'Next Big Thing' often isn't. Why you should stop buying mutual funds. How to make statistics stick. And why you may someday pay $300 for a pair of socks (and like it).

Here's how you can get it for free:

  1. Get it for the Kindle or the Nook or  the iPad.
  2. For readers outside the U.S. or without ebook readers, download the PDF version of Myth by going to our Resources page and signing in using your email address (the same one this note was sent to).
We'd appreciate it if you'd forward this email to any friends who might be interested - everybody loves to get something for nothing.
-Dan & Chip

Friday, November 11, 2011

ThumbsPlus v.8 SP1 software

I have been a huge fan of Cerious Software's ThumbsPlus software. It is my absolute favorite photo software and it has just gotten better. Here's the announcement we received yesterday:

Cerious Software releases ThumbsPlus version 8 SP1

It has been a long time since ThumbsPlus v7 was released – but we are still here with version 8!

Despite the huge influx and pervasiveness of copy-cat software, not one has yet managed to match ThumbsPlus – one of the original thumbnail making programs for Windows®.  Cerious Software has been managing your images, movies, clip art, fonts and even your sound files since 1993; and we still top the competition with our huge feature list, ease of use, support choices and the kindness we show to our customers.

The new and improved ThumbsPlus version 8 SP1 is now available!

Our customers asked and we listened:

Here are a few of the most-requested changes in the new release of ThumbsPlus.  For more comprehensive details, see the release notes at

  • Windows® 7 support.
  • New layout features for those who want the look and feel of ThumbsPlus v7 but want all of the new functionality of v8 SP 1 – or for those who adjusted the panels to a point that it’s confusing. The default display layout, menus, and  toolbars have changed.
  • We've made amazing improvements to movie thumbnailing speed as well as improved compatibility with many different codecs found online.
  • Database backup and restore, including when thumbnails are stored in separate files.
  • Storing thumbnails with files now works flawlessly, allowing for a nearly unlimited database size even when using the default Access database.
  • Support for longer file and path names (up to 400 characters) in databases which support them.
  • All dates and times are now stored – and handled internally – in ISO 8601 standard format for easier collation and readability.
  • As an option, all XMP metadata (including standard EXIF fields) may be copied to the database. In databases which support it (i.e., SQL Server), this information may be directly searched by queries in SQL Server Management Studio.
  • The JET database engine (Access format) will continue be supported for the time being; however, SQL Server, MySQL, Postgres, and Firebird offer larger databases, and better performance and reliability in multi-user configurations.
  • SQLite3 offers improved performance for non-shared database (stand-alone), and does not top out at 2GB as does Access.
  • For Access and SQLite3 databases, you can store the thumbnails in files external to the database, offering near unlimited support for the number of thumbnails in even an Access (.tpdb8) database.
  • Lengthened keyword size to 255 characters.
  • You can now customize all menus (including context menus), toolbars, and keyboard shortcuts.  Any menu selection or list may now be placed on the toolbar.
  • We implemented the Metadata Batch Editor (XMP/IPTC/EXIF), File - Edit Metadata.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bye bye to Flash

Adobe Systems has announced they are pulling the plug on Flash and they will likely be supporting HTML5. Anyone who has followed the war between Adobe and the iFruit company over the use of Flash on mobile devices, actually the lack of use of Flash on iFruit devices, knows what a loss this is for Adobe. The iFruit company always said that Flash was an inefficient power hog and refused to use it.

Since the majority of the Tablet markers, and a goodly sized chunk of the rest of the mobile device market, couldn't view Flash web sites developers weren't going to use it. It was probably inevitable that Flash had to go and Adobe was pushed into this move by the power of the free market.

Adobe is being forced to cut jobs and re-align their business in order to try to stay viable. I wish them all the luck in the world. They are a great company and they have developed some wonderful products. Where would we be today without PDF?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Actiontec MyWirelessTV

We received this announcement today and thought it would be of great interest to our readers, especially with the holidays approaching!

Actiontec Electronics today announced that MyWirelessTV is now available at select retail and online stores. The new wireless solution delivers a 1080p60 3D signal up to 150ft away, with practically no latency, even through walls and floors.

The company also announced that MyWirelessTV was named a CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Award Honoree.

MyWirelessTV replaces HDMI cables with a wireless transmitter and receiver to deliver brilliant HD video over a dedicated 5Ghz Wi-Fi network. This means you can hang a new flat panel above the living room fireplace and not have to worry about cables ruining the aesthetics. Or move a large screen TV out to the patio to watch the big game with friends. You can even stream a movie from your PC to the bedroom TV, or to  multiple televisions simultaneously.

"With MyWirelessTV, consumers can add a new television to virtually any room, even temporarily move an existing HDTV, without worrying about how to wire it," said Mike Ehlenberger, Vice President of Channel Sales at Actiontec Electronics. "Considering a 100 ft. HDMI cable can cost upwards of $300, MyWirelessTV isn't just easier than wires, it's more versatile and affordable."

The MyWirelessTV kit, which comes with a transmitter and receiver to connect any set top box, gaming console, DVD player or other device to a compatible HD display, can be purchased for $229 USD. Additional transmitters and receivers can be added to support multiple sources and multiple displays.

About MyWirelessTV
MyWirelessTV gives everyone the flexibility to watch HDTV anywhere in their home, without having to invest in an expensive wiring project, or dangle cables from the TV, up the wall, or down the hall. Key product highlights include:

  • Full 1080p60 HD and 3D video over 150 feet away
  • 100% standards based platform: compliant with 802.11 Wi-Fi and no interference with existing wireless networks
  • Achieves the industry's lowest compression latency with full HD H.264 encoding and decoding: low enough latency to not get fragged in the latest first-person shooter
  • Redundant upsampling digital converters and a core buffering channel on the most powerful dual core 700 MHz chipset available for pristine, undiminished 1080p quality video
  • Optimized for robust transmission over a dedicated Wi-Fi network with advanced quality of service (QoS), error concealment, and dynamic bit-rate management features
  • Intuitive GUI to easily control and interact with content from any TV or display
  • Pass-through USB and IR for mouse/keyboard and remote control from anywhere

For more information on Actiontec's MyWirelessTV, visit:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Photographic revelation

Revelations are wonderful things. They come upon us at the most unexpected times and are always welcome. Tonight I had one.

I have been a photographer since the "olden" days. The only High School club I belonged to was the Camera Club- way, way back in the early '60s. Thats the 1960s, not the 1860s, by the way!!

Back then zoom lenses were rarities and they usually were very bad. No, that's not true, only 99.99% of them really sucked! If you wanted quality images you needed good fixed focal length lenses. I always made sure that the lenses I bought were of the best quality that I could afford. Most of my lenses were Minolta Rokkor lenses and they were wonderful. I learned to compose and correct for exposure and do final cropping in the dark room. I still have many of those lenses and use them today on digital cameras. After all, the real secret to good photographs (after the "eye" of the photographer of course) is the lens.

Over the decades zoom lens quality has improved exponentially. We have reached the point where the quality difference is imperceptible between fixed focal length and zoom lenses. I admit that I have succumbed to the siren's song and use zoom lenses the majority of the time. But is that the right thing to be doing?

For many uses I don't use zooms. I use fixed focal length lens for macro shots, product shots for our pubs, wildlife shooting and several other projects. Why? The quality of the lenses I use is awesome and I can always crop at the last minute.

DUH!!! I'm doing the same thing with crucial shots that I have always done- I'm using fixed focal length lenses and cropping!

My next project is to take a break from zoom lenses. For the next few weeks, maybe longer, I'm doing all of my shooting with dSLRs and non-zoom lenses. Stay tuned and we'll all see how this works out!

Kodak has sold another part of the business

Kodak continues to try to stay in business. The latest step is the sale of their image sensor business. Here's what we heard today:

Kodak announced it has completed the sale of its Image Sensor Solutions (ISS) business “in a move that will sharpen Kodak’s operational focus and strengthen its financial position.”

The ISS business develops, manufactures, and markets the high performance solid state image sensor devices.

The buyer, Platinum Equity, specializes in the merger, acquisition and operation of companies that provide services and solutions to customers in a broad range of business markets.

“This is a great opportunity to acquire a business with an impressive record for delivering innovative solutions to customers around the world,” Platinum Equity says.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Kodak will have continuing access to the image sensor technology involved in this transaction for use in its own products.

Included in the sale is a 263,000 square foot facility in Eastman Business Park in Rochester, N.Y., that houses manufacturing and research facilities.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NewerTech products - Part 2

This is part 2 of our reviews on new products from OWC:

The other products from OWC are the their Dock Connector to USB Cables. We received one of their 12” and one of the 36” length cables. Technically they are 4-pin USB 2.0 to 30 Pin Dock connectors.

Anyone who uses any tablets or smartphones knows how important synch/power cables are. Without them you have a very expensive paper weight. We have applauded phone makers and some tablet makers for using standard cables that allow users to interchange cables between products. The iFruit company does something similar and you use the same synch/power cables for the latest iPods, iPhones and iPads.

These cables provided flawless connectivity with every device we tested them with. Our recommendation is easy, if you travel at all you must have one of these cables. Even if you never leave your home or office ever, they are excellent insurance for a lost or broken cable.

Prices are often discounted on their web site but are usually under $10 for either.

Bell curves

When I studied statistics in college I learned about bell curves. What I didn't realize at the time is how well they reflect the technology industry. Every company and product has a bell curve for a life cycle. They start out small, grow at varioius rates to their peak and then trail off again, back to the beginning.

Historically this is very clear. Look at companies/products like Polaroid cameras, Palm PDAs, Lotus 1-2-3, and just about every other product line and you'll see the curve. Some of the curves are much longer and were much higher, like Kodak film cameras, and some were relatively small and short lived, like Netbook computers. Something totally new came along and replaced them in the market. Digital cameras have replaced film cameras almost entirely and Tablets have replaced Netbooks.

I was impressed with Eric Schmidt's recent letter to Congress when expressed a similar view. In the letter he opined that Google started out small, they have become a power house and will someday be replaced by something like Siri. Very good Mr. Schmidt, when you learn from history you can avoid some of the inevitable failures.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Boogie Board news!

I have been a big fan of the Boogie Boards for the last year or so. As I'm sitting here writing this I have three of them handy. They are perfect for the kind of quick notes I jot down when I writing. I honestly can't imagine life without them.

This week we received an inportant press release from Improv Electronics, the makers of Boogie Boards. Here's the release intact:

The highly anticipated Boogie Board Rip LCD Writing Tablet, the first Boogie Board tablet model with save capabilities, is now shipping to addresses in North America, Europe and other select global locations for purchases made through (U.S. only),, and Preorders placed on will also begin shipping today.

 “This is a monumental day – not only for Improv Electronics but for environmentally-conscious consumers around the world,” said Dr. Albert Green, Kent Displays/Improv Electronics CEO. “Paper has been used as writing and drawing medium for roughly a thousand years. With the launch of the Boogie Board Rip tablet, we now offer a comprehensive family of Boogie Board eWriters that are viable electronic, paperless alternatives to note books, composition books, legal pads, sketch books, memo pads, sticky notes, scratch paper and other writing and drawing mediums. As more and more consumers use Boogie Board eWriters instead of their paper-based counterparts, we will move much closer to a truly paperless society.”

The Boogie Board Rip tablet will be launched with optional Virtual Desktop Companion software, downloadable from The Microsoft Windows compatible tool expands the functionality of the Boogie Board Rip tablet when it is connected to a PC. Users can view notes and drawings on a computer monitor in real time, save files directly to their computer, and share files via e-mail.

“The high volume of Boogie Board Rip tablet preorders indicates consumers are eager to embrace an electronic, paperless writing and drawing medium,” continued Dr. Green. “The benefits compared to paper are obvious: they are less costly (than an equivalent amount of paper), offer expanded functionality, and have far less impact on the environment. I am confident eWriters will become the preferred writing and drawing medium of the 21st century — it’s just a matter of how quickly.”

MSRP for the Boogie Board Rip tablet is $129.99 USD (114.99 Euros, 99.99 British pounds, and 14,800 Yen). Consumers can click the Buy Now button on to view local retailers. Announcements about Boogie Board Rip tablet availability in additional countries and retails outlets are forthcoming.

 About Boogie Board eWriters
Improv Electronics introduced Boogie Board eWriters in January 2010 with the Boogie Board 8.5 LCD Writing Tablet as a paperless replacement for memo pads, sticky notes, scratch pads and other writing and drawing mediums. High global demand immediately followed, and it is now sold in over 25 countries. Eight colors were added in January 2011. In June 2011, several additional Boogie Board tablet models and accessories were launched including the Boogie Board 10.5 LCD Writing Tablet, Boogie Board 8.5 LCD Writing Tablet for Binders, and the Boogie Board Message Center. At the same time, a custom design of the original Boogie Board 8.5 tablet available exclusively through Brookstone was introduced.

The Boogie Board Rip tablet’s ability to record and save notes/images makes it the ideal paperless replacement for paper notebooks, legal pads, and sketch books. It includes the following features:
  • Internal memory for 200 typical images
  • High resolution, vector PDF format (nearly infinite scalability; editable in Adobe® Illustrator®/Photoshop® and most other popular illustration and image editing programs)
  • 9.5” writing surface (measured diagonally)
  • Micro USB port
  • Thin, durable and lightweight construction
  • Integrated stylus holder (stylus included)
  • Erase lock button
  • Rechargeable batteries with  one week between charges under typical use

Friday, November 4, 2011

SmartPhone use

I was right again. A while back I predicted that Android would come to dominate the Smartphone market. and the Nielson report on phones confirms my opinion.

In Q3 Android has grown to 43% of the American market with iOS a distant second at only 28%. And while Android continues to increase their market share iOS is sitting at a stagnant 28%. The other players like BlackBerry and Windows are in freefall and continue to slide. It's only a matter of time until they are minute niche players.

I love having lots of choices in technology and I hope the smaller players keep fighting and innovating. That will only make the current leaders keep improving their products. You can't stop and rest if you're being chased!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A new HP computers

Now that HP has made the decision to stay in the PC business they are starting to announce new products. Today they announced two new products, the HP Slate Tablet PC and the HP 3115M lightweight business notebook. Both of them are reasonably priced and will be available later this month.

This is from the press release:

Pricing and availability
  • The HP Slate 2 Tablet PC starts at $699 and is expected to be available worldwide later this month.
  • The HP 3115m starts at $429 and is expected to be available Nov. 11 in the Americas only.
More information about the products, including product specifications and images, is available at

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NewerTech products - Part 1

We recently received several products from NewerTech (also known as Other World Computing) to review that are specifically designed for iFruit products.

The first OWC product we tested was the NewerTech Pad Protector 2, a really beautiful leather carrying folio. Very few of the tablet computers or eReaders we’ve tested come with a carrying case or sleeve and that means your very expensive touch screen is unprotected when your carrying it around. OWC has created an ideal solution to that problem if you’re an iPad 2 user.

What’s in the box:
The slim leather case
A clear plastic screen protector
A suede cleaning cloth

The Pad Protector 2 is available in three colors black, cognac and red. We were sent the black version and it’s very well designed and constructed. There is a soft lining inside that provides a nice non-slip feeling. The case has cutouts for all of the controls and the rear facing camera.

An iPad 2 fits in the case snuggly and the lightweight case feels incredibly natural with the case on. The clear plastic screen protector is one of the best we’ve tested and actually had fewer “bubble” problems than others we’ve tested.

The case can be used as a “kickstand” and can be used as a limited range way of propping the iPad 2 up for viewing.

Recommendation: If you have an iPad 2 then you need on of these excellent cases.

Price for the Pad Protector 2 is $39.95 on their web site. They also have an incredible selection of other cases available if you aren’t too fond of this particular design.