Friday, November 30, 2012

Mobile Phone Company Satisfaction

Consumer Reports has published their annual satisfaction survey of mobile phone companies with no major changes. Verizon is, once again, the best rated provider and AT&T is at the bottom of the list. Our personal experience in the past few months mirrors their results. We have had excellent service from Verizon and lousy service from AT&T. Here’s the press release:

Verizon Wireless was the highest-Rated major carrier in Consumer Reports' annual cell-phone service Ratings, based on a survey of 63,253 subscribers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The full report can be found online at and in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, which is on newsstands now.

Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon Wireless led the pack, receiving favorable scores for voice and data service quality, and also for support attributes like staff knowledge and resolution of issues. Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T each received mostly middling to low marks, particularly for voice and text service quality.
AT&T was among the lower-scoring providers, but its 4G LTE network was Rated the most favorably of any carrier. Its users reported the fewest problems with that higher-speed service, which most new smart phones now use.

Consumer Cellular, a national carrier that uses AT&T's network, received high marks across the board in Consumer Reports' Ratings of standard (monthly bill) carriers. The no-frills carrier caters to users with the simplest wireless needs and offers the simplicity of monthly billing without a contractual commitment.

The report found that no-contract plans can be major cost-savers. Two-thirds of Consumer Reports survey respondents who switched to so-called "prepaid plans," which typically lack a contract commitment and bill each month in advance, saved more than $20 a month by switching to prepaid. Those savings can allow wireless customers to quickly recoup the cost of the phone itself, which can be higher if they don't make a contractual commitment.

TracFone was among the top-Rated prepaid providers, receiving high marks for value, voice and text. Like Consumer Cellular, it specializes in those who seek simple, low-cost phone service.

Even those whose phone needs are less than basic can save by going prepaid. "Some smaller carriers that scored respectably in our Ratings and offer low-priced plans, such as Straight Talk and Virgin Mobile, now offer fairly sophisticated smart phones," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. "And you can even save by switching a phone from a major carrier that's coming off contract to a prepaid plan."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping Your Computer Safe

By Robert Sanborn

I have always enjoyed helping people with their computer problems even if they get infested with the latest malware and some of the ones I have seen lately have been very good.  I have seen lots of the bogus anti-virus products but the one lately called “Platinum Anti-Virus” was written very well and was very convincing and what gave it away was the constant popups that would not allow you to do anything else on your computer.   

Another one I saw recently was a bogus FBI warning that wanted you to ship them $200 through an online payment processing system Moneypak.  That was very well done, and even turned on your video camera to show you looking at the warning screen. Problem is that if the FBI ever wanted to confront you with something, they do it with a knock on the door. 

The last one was my poor cousin getting a call from someone alleging to be from Microsoft telling her that they are responding to one of the error reports. She was not wise enough to just disconnect the phone but allowed them to show her the problems on her computer and hung up when she discovered that they wanted money to help her.  

In the first two cases, the computers were pretty much up to date, anti-virus programs were running, and they thought they were being cautious about the websites they were visiting and not opening emails that they didn’t know.  Still they got hit.  

How do you keep safe? Here are my own tips.  First, get a good internet security package; Kaspersky Internet Security (or Pure, or One); Symantec Norton Internet Security; and make sure that they are always up to date.  Next, Make sure that Adobe Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, and Oracle’s Java are up to date.  Same thing with Windows; if you haven’t seen Windows update itself at least once a month, then click on Start, All Programs, and look for Windows Update. If you are using Internet Explorer, make sure you are running version 8 for Windows XP or 9 for Vista and Windows 7.  

Next, if you are not using Norton Internet Security, then go to the Norton site and download “Safe Web”. Download their “Safe Web Lite” browser plug in.  Then go get the one from McAfee and download their “Site Advisor”  Both of these products help to keep your internet browsing secure and hopefully, will flag a site before you go to tell you whether it is safe to visit.  

Finally, if things just don’t look that right to you, then get a copy of my favorite malware scanner, Malware Bytes, just download the free version, install it, update it, and have it scan your computer.  This should keep you and your computer, live and well.

iFruit Maps Failure

One of the signs of any civilization that is on the verge of death is when they start to eat their own dead. The iFruit company is starting to fire senior managers who have “failed” and that is the exact same thing.

The recent firing of the manager in charge of the abysmal failure that the replacement for Google Maps was is a classic example. Things are getting desperate in Apple Valley folks and we expect a lot more people to be fired.

The only people who should NOT be fired are the marketing folks who still have the unwashed masses gushing over inferior products. The iFruit company is selling a gazillion phones and tablets to the same people who watch “reality” TV. They are aiming their products at Kardashian fans and that may be a great short term plan.

Hopefully some day in the future things will balance out and we’ll get back to the cream rising to the top. Let us pray.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pentax Q 06 Lens

The new Pentax Q 06 zoom lens is now available for around $299. The new 15-45mm f/2.8 lens finally gives the tiny Q series of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs) some serious telephoto capability.

Because of the tiny 1/2.3” sensor used in the Q bodies, the 06 lens is equivalent to an 83-250mm lens on a 35mm film camera and that’s plenty of reach for most uses. We have always been very impressed with the Q cameras not just because they are so small but because of the excellent pictures they take.

We hope we’ll be able to do a full review on the 06 lens and the new Q10 cameras soon. We’ll let you know when we have an update.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leica M3D Auction

By Chuck Hajdu
One of my heroes as a photographer was David Douglas Duncan. I have many of his books in my collection and his photographic eye will always be admired by many, especially by me.

His equipment of choice was always Leica cameras, the same equipment that most great photographers used 50 years ago. Most of the photographers I admired most were Leica users and I followed their example when I could afford it. My world famous brother, the author David Hajdu, still uses an old M-3 to this day.

Recently one of DDD’s cameras was sold at auction for a mere USD 2.66 million. There were only four M3Ds ever built for him and the one that was sold was used for some of his most famous work.

It is my honest belief that I love the look and feel of Olympus PEN cameras so much because they remind me of the feel of a Leica. My PEN cameras feel like old time Leica rangefinder cameras and they are my current favorites. I’d like to think that DDD and Andre Kertesz would join me as PEN users if we went out for a shoot together today.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday Sales

This morning the in-boxes of every email account I have were full of Cyber Monday sales offers. It seems like every e-tailer has a super sale going on and they are trying hard to get my (and your) money.

With Black Friday now starting on Thanksgiving Day and extending through the weekend it's logical that it e followed by yet another sale! It seems like we're entering a brave new era in which every day is a shopping day! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pentax Deals

We found this at the Pentax Forums web site:

Black Friday brought many great Pentax deals, most of which will continue through Monday, November 26th.  In addition, we expect retailers to post some new deals for Cyber Monday only, so please stay tuned!

Yesterday's deals were mainly for Pentax lenses, DSLRs, and the Pentax K-01.  While some of the deals can also be found on Amazon's web site and at smaller retailers, it was mainly B&H and Adorama of NYC who truly made an effort to price Pentax gear attractively, especially considering how expensive Pentax lenses have been over the past several months.  The only exception to this is the Pentax Q/Q10, which B&H and Adorama have neglected (however, Newegg is offering a great deal on the Q with the 02 zoom lens).

In this post we highlight what we've found to be the best USA Pentax & photo deals.  If you want to view all the discounts out there, please check these two posts, which have recently been updated to reflect the latest price drops:

More Pentax news at:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Olympus TOUGH TG-820 Camera Review

 By Chuck Hajdu

There has been a lot written lately about the pending demise of the compact point-and-shoot digital camera. Since many people have abandoned dedicated cameras for smartphones that have built-in cameras, the logic is that very soon there will no longer be a need to carry a separate camera. In many ways their arguments have a lot of validity but only for a small segment of the market, the casual snap-shooter.

More serious photographers will always need specialized photographic equipment with better, bigger sensors and other more professional capabilities. The cameras in smartphones just can’t compete with the capabilities of dedicated cameras.

One of the specialized camera types that have unique capabilities is the “Tough Cameras”. Several manufacturers make digital cameras with water, shock, dirt and temperature resistance, including Olympus. We’ve reviewed earlier versions of their Tough line as well as similar models from other makers.

Over the next couple of days we’re going to review the TG-820 in detail. Be sure to check out each post

Friday, November 23, 2012

Olympus Black Friday deals

Olympus has some incredible deals available this weekend. They are so good that we may actually buy some presents for ourselves!!

Check them out at

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

We would like to wish all of our readers a happy Thanksgiving. We'll get back to our regular exciting news, views and lots of special offers tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

Here in the USA it's the day before the Thanksgiving holiday and we're doing what millions of other people are doing, we're on the road. We've already run into some of the usual travel issues, crowded airports, over-crowded airplanes and major traffic jams on the roads. All of the usual reasons people hate to travel. At least we got to stay in a nice hotel where we were treated very well.

The big question in my mind is will it be worth all of the expense and the hassels? I guess we'll have to answer that when we get back.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

VerizonWireless and Toys For Tots

VerizonWireless and the US Marine Corps Reserve are partnering in the state of Tennessee to support the Toys For Tots charity program. Let’s hope that other VerizonWireless offices are getting involved too!!

Who: Verizon Wireless, builder and operator of the nation’s largest 4G LTE network.

What:  As the holiday gift-giving season approaches, employees at Nashville area Verizon Wireless stores are spearheading a toy drive to support the Marines’ Toys for Tots program. The company will partner with customers to supply the the Nashville-based Marines of India Company 3/24 with toys to distribute to area families in need.

When: Sun., Nov. 25 – Fri., Dec. 14

Where: Verizon Wireless stores                     

3047 Wilma Rudolph Blvd
Clarksville, TN 37040

1152 Nashville Pike
Gallatin, TN 37066

4044 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37215

223 Indian Lake Blvd
Hendersonville, TN 37075

1424 W Main St
Lebanon, TN 37087

401 S Mount Juliet Rd
Mount Juliet, TN 37122

6800 Charlotte Pike
Nashville, TN 37209

1915 Gallatin Pike N
Madison, TN 37115

Why: Verizon is committed to supporting Tennessee communities by continually investing in its wireless network, in its employees and in the communities it serves.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ePub Schedule

We’ll be publishing our monthly ePub later today rather than waiting until the 20th of the month which is our normal publishing date. The reason is simple, we’ll be out of the office for a few days and don’t want to hold off until we return after the Thanksgiving break.

Of course, we’ll be running some great product reviews during what is normally an extremely slow news period. It’s always our intent to make daily trips to this blog worth while!

Watch for our ePub in your email later today if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not, let us know and we’ll add you!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Black Friday Deals

We received this announcement for some great Black Friday deals:

GoSmart Stylus:
At on Black Friday, Fri., Nov. 23 at 3 AM PT-12 AM Midnight PT:
Buy 2 GoSmart Styluses, get 1 Stylus free, Code:  WERSMART
At, buy 3 GoSmart Styluses, get 1 free at checkout

SensoGlove Digital Golf Glove:
At on Black Friday, Fri., Nov. 23rd – Fri., Nov. 30th:
New version of SensoGlove 20% off at $71.20 (normally $89), Code: “BlackFriday12”

Kidz Gear Headphones:
At on Cyber Monday, Mon., Nov 26, 2012 (no code needed):
·         FREE Carry Bag With ALL Headphone Orders (CH68KGXX)
·         FREE Shipping On ALL Orders (No International)
·         FREE Splitter Cable (S68KGCBL) With ANY TWO (2) Headphones Ordered (CH68KGXX)
            At (no code needed):
·         FREE Carry Bag With ALL Headphone Orders (CH68KGXX)
·         FREE Splitter Cable (S68KGCBL) with ANY TWO (2) Headphones Ordered (CH68KGXX)

The Great Kat Guitar Shredder:
At Wed., Nov. 21 – Sat, Nov. 24:
50% off Great Kat Black Friday Sale Package of Guitar Goddess CD, Extreme Guitar Shred DVD, autographed photo for $8.50 (normally $17)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another View On ShowRooming

The new CEO of Best Buy, Hubert Joly, recently made an interesting statement on the  phenomenon of Showrooimng. In a visit to the Wall Street Journal he said We love showrooming, We want to turn the tables and embrace showrooming.

Personally we think that he has a very healthy attitude. Instead of trying to find a way to continue business as usual he’s looking at finding a new way to use the changing business model to their advantage. After all, once you have a potential customer in your brick-and-mortar store you should be able to close a sale. The customer came into your store for a reason, they want to check out products personally. A retailers job is over half done and all they need to do is close the sale.

Good luck Best Buy, we wish you all the best.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Android = The New Windows

Regular readers of this blog know that we have been arguing for a long time that MSFT Windows is close to death. Win 8 is the latest attempt from Redmond to take all of us back to the glory days of MSFT: the 1990s. Unfortunately for them, the rest of us are as happy as can be with the 21st Century and we have moved on from their monolithic, proprietary systems. We happily use Smartphones and Tablets (and Phablets) to accomplish the tasks we need to do in a faster and cheaper way.

Here are some stats from Gartner:

Gartner's figures cover mobile device sales in the third quarter of this year. Android has gone into overdrive: unit sales more than doubled year-on-year to 122.5 million, and the platform has a market share of 72.4 percent, up from 52.5 percent a year before. That's in mobile devices, not just smartphones.

Apple's iOS is in second place, with quarterly device sales up from 17.3 million to 23.5 million, but its market share down from 15 percent to 13.8 percent. Other mobile OSes are all in the single digits, from RIM's 5.3 percent share down to Microsoft's 2.4 percent.

Now compare this data with what Gartner said a month ago about PC shipments in the same quarter. The grand total for Q3? 87.5 million units. A year-on-year drop of 8.3 percent, since you ask.

In other words, Android device sales have an almost 3:2 ratio compared with PC shipments — and remember that shipments are always greater than sales (unless the product sells out). At this rate, the ratio will be 2:1 within a quarter or two.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

LensPen SideKick

One of the products that we have come to depend upon is the LensPen SideKick. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s what it does:

Santa is sure to leave iPads and tablets under trees in every city and town. While he may handle them with gloves, you can bet the lucky people who receive them won’t. And you know what that means – fingerprints. All over the screen every time it’s used.

There’s one way to completely remove fingerprints and oils from an iPad or tablet screen, and that’s to clean it with SideKick™ by LensPen®. SideKick is a great stocking stuffer idea for new and current iPad and tablet users.

Cloths, tissues, sprays – even Smart Covers – will remove some of the prints, but a small amount will remain, and will build up over time. Only SideKick – which uses the same grease-cutting carbon technology as LensPen lens and filter cleaners – completely removes fingerprints every time.

“We’re frequently asked if a SideKick is needed if an iPad has a Smart Cover, and it definitely is!” said Ryan Keating, vice president of marketing at the LensPen Group. “The Smart Cover picks up some of the oils where the microfiber side actually comes into contact with the screen. And long streaks of fingerprints remain under the flex joints. SideKick is an absolute necessity to completely clean iPad screens.”

SideKick is available at, Best Buy and other fine retailers. Replaceable cleaning pads are also available. For more information on SideKick go to

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big News from MSFT

There were a lot of pundits predicting that Win8 would be the savior of MSFT’s software business. It would be all things to all users and their stock price would zoom up to the levels of the iFruit company and Google. Some of us were skeptical, ok, we remain downright negative about MSFTs chances of ever recovering to their exalted position from the past.

If recent events are any indication then we’re convinced the negatives were right. The announcement that Steven Sinofsky , the President of the Win division at MSFT, has left the company and the subsequent price drop in their stock are sure signs of their future demise.

We’ve said this many times in the past and we’ll repeat it here: the problem is Steve Ballmer!! Dump him and get a new CEO who isn’t trapped in the WinWorld of the 1990s like Steve is. It’s the 21st Century and they need to change dramatically. If they don’t change maybe Google will just buy both MSFT and the iFruit company some day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

COMDEXvirtual 2012

Today is the start of COMDEXvirtual 2012, the 21st Century version of the Olde Fall Comdex. We'll be "attending" and we'll make sure to cover anything that we think our readers will find interesting. 

It won't be the same as the trip to Vegas we made every November for many years, but times change and we need to change with it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

EasyChat 814 Review

By George Harding

These are three-in-one headphones.  The “three” refers to features.

Actually, there are more than three features that are worth mentioning. One of them is very important to listening – sound quality. They have frequency response range of 20 – 20k Hz. Those of us of an age cannot hear sounds in the 20k Hz range, but it’s nice to know that they are being reproduced!

Another feature is that they can be used for Skype. In fact, the headphones are Skype Certified. This means that you can enjoy clear sound during your Skype phone calls.

Also, they have a 3.5 mm plug, which allows connection to just about any mobile device, for listening to your music or podcasts.

There is also a 3.5mm to USB adaptor, which allows VOIP calls via the headphones.

Best of all, you can use these headphone for smartphone calls. There is an embedded multifunction button for answering and ending phone calls, as well as switching between calls and music. It also serves as a microphone.

The ear cushions are very comfortable and, an unusual feature, they fold flat for easy carrying. The headband is easily adjustable to any head size.                        
Price about $37

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kingston microSD Card Kit

We'll be running a major, multi-post review of the Olympus TOUGH TG-820 camera this week and here's an excerpt from the review on the memory cards we used for the tests.

While we’re talking about storage let’s discuss what memory cards to use with a camera that has the HD video and sequential shooting capabilities of the TG-820. As we said above, the camera uses SD sized cards which means you can choose from a huge number of cards. But in order to really take advantage of the capabilities of the camera we feel it’s vital to use a Class 10 card. In case you’re not familiar with the various Classes available in SD cards Class 10 means a 10MB/sec. minimum transfer rate is guaranteed. There are also slower Class 6 cards available that may be adequate but we decided to go with Class 10.

Since we wanted to be able to view all of the pictures we took on several devices, including Phablets (phones and tablets) that only have microSD slots we decided on the Kingston 32 GB microSDSHC Mobility Kit. The kit is available in 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB capacities. We used the 32GB kit and it turned out to be an ideal choice. All of the cards are formatted in FAT32 and are compliant with the SD Card Association specifications and come with a lifetime warranty.

The MBLY10G2/32GB kit turned out to be an absolutely perfect choice. It was very fast, we never had any delays when shooting video of sequenced still shots, and the huge capacity was wonderful. We were able to shoot for many days shooting both still photos and videos and never came close to filling up the card.

No matter what deice you need memory for, Kingston has the best solution in the industry.

MSRP is $63 but it is available for much less.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Plustek Rebates

Plustek, the maker of the best scanners available, has just announced a bunch of great rebates. 

Here are the effective dates and rebate details:

11/21~11/30 (Black Friday and Thanksgiving special)
Model#ModelInstant rebate

Model#ModelInstant rebate


Model#ModelInstant rebate

12/17~12/31 (Christmas and end of year promotions)

Model#ModelInstant rebate