Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Most Viewed Blog Posts

As 2013 comes to an end we thought it might be useful to do a bit of research to see what blog posts generated the most views. We didn’t look at what post got the most comments or any other stat, just views.

Here are the top 5 blog posts for 2013 in descending order.
1- Canon EOS M2 from Dec. 5 with almost triple the views of other posts
2- Will This Help Acer? from Dec. 1
3- WD Dual Drive from Nov.26
4- Protecting Your Gear from Oct. 27
5- CES 2013 Preview from Jan. 2

We aren’t sure what any of this means other than our readers like the variety of subject we cover. That sounds like a vote of confidence for what we’re doing so we’ll keep it up!

Monday, December 30, 2013

January ePub Issue

The January issue of our monthly ePub is being emailed out today. Once again it’s full of interesting reviews and articles. The highlight of the issue is the return of one of our most popular writers, Linda Webb. For all of you that have missed her insights be sure to catch her piece on Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Anyone who wants to be added to our subscribers list just needs to let us know and you’ll be added.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

LG Optimus G Pro Review

By George Harding

This is one fine smart phone! It has a big screen 2.75’ X 4.75’ X 3/8” and about 5.5” diagonally. This is over twice as much screen space than my iPhone 4. And the display is true HD, which would mean 1080p quality (1280X 768), providing you with a brilliant screen and fantastic photos to look at. A plus is the Gorilla Glass screen, providing extra protection against breakage.

The core of the phone is a 1.5 GHz quad core chip. That makes for snappy performance, no matter what app you are using.

This phone is really smart, because it is 4G LTE capable. It connects not only to your cell provider, but also finds any WiFi network available and also connects to a 4G network available. A 4G network is one that meets certain technical requirements, but generally is regarded as being very fast – 100 Mbit/s. The LTE part means long term evolution.

The unit comes with 32 GB storage, but more can be added with micro SD cards, up to 80 GB!

More storage is available through the LG Box Cloud storage. This uses a downloadable app that allows saving documents, pictures and more up to 50 GB. And it’s free!

The touch screen is very fast, changes orientation as needed and display items can be expanded or reduced with your fingers. The home screen default is time at the top in large numerals along with day and date. A handy addition to the time panel is the weather at your location.

At the bottom are Contacts, Calendar, Email, Google Play Store (apps, games, movies, books and magazines), Phone, Messaging, Browser, Camera and Apps. In addition, you can add to the screen any app that you download.

At the very bottom of the screen are Previous and Screen tools. There is an oval item in the center, which is tempting to push, but doesn’t do anything. The Previous button takes you back as far as you need.

The battery is long-life, and according to LG lasts for up to 10 hours talk-time and 13.5 days standby.
One of the interesting (and I think unique) features is Quick Memo. You can capture any screen and write on it with your finger!

The rear-facing camera is 8 MP, is autofocus and captures video at 1080p, true HD. The camera has what LG calls “smart shutter,” which corrects shutter speed based on subject movement, reducing blur. There is a 1.3 MP front-facing camera as well.

The operating system is Android 4.1.2, named Jelly Bean, including Bluetooth capability.

This is one great phone, a pleasure to use!

LG Optimus G                         
Price $50 to $100 with 2 year contract

Saturday, December 28, 2013

PortaGrip Mount Review

By George Harding

We have so many devices today – cell phones, tablets, MP3 players, GPS trackers – that when we travel, it’s cumbersome to have several in the car at once and be able to access one when needed.

Here’s where PortaGrip comes in handy. It’s designed to hold just about any hand-held device with a mount that attaches to most car surfaces. With PortaGrip, your device is handy and within arm’s reach.

It’s designed to hold a cell phone, but other items can be held as well. There is a suction cup which can be used to attach to the windshield or to another surface.

Once attached, you can manipulate the arm so the position suits you best. It has two rotating points to make alignment easy.

The clamp for your device attaches securely to the arm. The clamp has two adjusting fingers so that it can adapt to any size device. The bed of the clamp is padded and won’t scratch you device.

This is a handy solution to the problem of having your device within easy reach and available.

PortaGrip Mount by Panavise             
Price about $30

Friday, December 27, 2013

CES Preparations

It's only a bit over week until the 2014 CES International show in Las Vegas. Our in-boxes are full of invitations to visit booths and see new products. It seems a bit overwhelming at this point and we'll have to do a lot of decision making about what to see and what we'll have to miss.

The MCC will be covering the show from start to finish and we have an excellent, veteran team all set to go. We're planning on covering the show floor as well as the major off site press events to provide the best possible coverage.

Our current plan is to do multiple daily blog updates so our readers will know what we're seeing that looks hot and interesting.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sell Your BlackBerry Stock, NOW

BlackBerry co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Mike Lazaridis walked away from a possible takeover plan and reduced his stake in the struggling smartphone maker after it ended an attempt to sell itself.

Lazaridis now owns 26.3 million shares, or 4.99 percent of its outstanding shares, according to a regulatory filing yesterday. The former BlackBerry executive, who earlier this year had considered making a bid for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, sold more than $26 million of stock this week, according to the filing. Together with co-founder Doug Fregin, he had controlled about 8 percent of the stock.

Following the collapse of a $4.7 billion buyout by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. last month, BlackBerry ended its strategic review, opting instead to raise $1 billion in convertible debt and seek a new CEO. Former Sybase Inc. chief John Chen was named executive chairman and interim CEO. The $1 billion infusion helped stabilize the unprofitable company, giving Chen time to craft a turnaround plan.

Lazaridis and Fregin had hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Centerview Partners LLC to evaluate their options for a possible deal. Yesterday, they terminated that agreement, according to the filing.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

We would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of our readers.

Unless there is breaking news of great importance we will not be publishing an update today or tomorrow. It is our sincerest wish that everyone spend some joyous time with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our savior.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Big Deal for Apple

Apple and China Mobile have officially inked a multi-year deal that will bring the iPhone to China's largest telecom and provide a distribution and volume boost for months to come.

Analysts have estimated that China Mobile will enable Apple to sell anywhere from 15 million to about 20 million more iPhones. Specifically, Apple said that it will sell the iPhone 5s and 5c on China Mobile beginning Jan. 17.

China Mobile, which has 760 million customers, is rolling out 4G and expects to have 16 cities covered by the end of 2013. China Mobile will have 340 cities covered by 4G by the end of 2014. These 4G networks are based on China's own version of LTE. Apple will give that 4G standard a boost as well as support China's 3G flavors.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

3D Printers

By Robert Sanborn

Having seen the technology of creating a new object out of plastic and resin, I always marvel at the new strides being made in 3D printing. You can have your own printer to tinker with for less than $1000 and while the cheaper models are really toys for grownups; the technology is moving quite rapidly. One of the first videos I saw on the subject is still one of the best at showing off what the technology could accomplish. 3D Printer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ-aWFYT_SU

You know the technology is reaching mainstream when you can go to Staples and buy one. Go to Staples website, http://www.staples.com and do a search on “Cube 3D” and for $1299, you can have your own to play with.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Great Idea

Esurance is seeking to appeal to parents with technology that can disable their children’s mobile phones when they are behind the wheel and provide warnings when they drive too fast.
DriveSafe, available for free to Esurance policyholders who list teens on their plan, consists of a device installed in the car and a smartphone application, according to a statement from the company. Esurance, owned by Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate Corp., focuses on sales through the Internet, rather than by agents.

Auto-insurance companies have turned to technology to encourage safer driving and, in some cases, help set rates. Progressive Corp.’s Snapshot collects data that is used to give discounts to the safest customers. Esurance, which also offers a usage-based discount program, won’t use data collected by the teen-safety program to set rates, said Danny Miller, a spokesman for the company.

DriveSafe “can help stop teens from texting while driving and make parents and their teens aware of, and hopefully reduce, risky driving behavior,” Esurance Chief Executive Officer Gary Tolman said in the statement.

Phones would still be able to call 911 to report emergencies. Trip summaries are typically available to parents by computer within 5 minutes of the end of a trip, Miller said.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Olympus MILC Sales

Will Olympus start making a profit on its camera sales again? Yes, the company forecasts, thanks primarily to mirrorless interchangeable lens models.

Bloomberg reports the company claiming annual sales of mirrorless models will rise to 1 million units, reaching 5 percent share of the global market — and about $68 million in operating profit.

Olympus has posted losses in two consecutive quarters. “With the camera industry’s revenue falling to the lowest level in a decade, amid surging smartphone sales, Nikon has cut prices to lure consumers,” Bloomberg adds. “The single-lens reflex camera market was 20 million units globally last year, according to data by Camera & Imaging Products Association. Olympus’s camera unit accounted for about 14 percent of the company’s total revenue last year and reported an operating loss of 2.7 billion yen in the six months ended Sept. 30.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

MSFT Blows it Again

While firmware updates are supposed to fix, enhance, and optimize elements of your kit, a recent release from Microsoft for its new Surface Pro 2 tablet appears to have done exactly the opposite, leaving many frustrated owners with under-performing slates.

Realizing the update was less than perfect, the computer giant on Wednesday pulled it, though the move came more than a week after it was released. It’s not known how many people downloaded it in that time, or indeed how many tablets were adversely affected, though a related thread on a Microsoft forum currently runs across 21 pages.

While many users apparently hadn’t even been able to make a successful install, some of those that did manage to load up the firmware are reportedly experiencing issues such as noticeably shorter battery life, trouble using Wi-Fi, and even difficulties in putting the tablet to sleep or shutting it down.

Microsoft announced it was pulling the update in a post on the forum.

“To ensure the best experience for our customers during the holiday season, we have taken steps to remove the update for Surface Pro 2 that was previously published through Windows Update,” the company said.

In a move that’s bound to irk those who’ve already downloaded the flawed firmware, the post went on to say that the company is working on “an alternative update package” that won’t be released until “after the holidays.” Exactly how that ensures “the best experience for our customers during the holiday season” will be a little hard to understand for those who’re now experiencing issues with their device.

It’s unusual for a firmware update to be taken down like this – a measure of the seriousness of the situation – and questions are bound to be asked within the company about testing procedures for the software prior to its release early last week

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OPPO 2K Smartphone

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo may fire the first shot as the war of next-gen displays gets underway. The upcoming Find 7 handset will debut with a 2,560x1,440 pixel (2K) display, according to a recent tweet from the manufacturer. And it seems like only yesterday they were readying the world's first 1080p smartphone.

There are relatively few known specifications about the Find 7; however, the rumors paint a pretty picture. Should the device live up to expectations, consumers could be in for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB RAM and a whopping 4,000mAh battery.

Presumably running Android 4.3 or later, the smartphone should rise to the top of the heap. That is, of course, provided the chatter is correct. Qualcomm only recently introduced its latest quad-core processor, but says it will power devices in the first half of 2014.

Regardless of the full hardware details, the Find 7 may prove to be as expensive as it will be elusive. Its predecessor, the Find 5, debuted at $700 and was only offered in limited, unlocked capacities.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MSFT Windows Versions

Has anyone else noticed that MSFT no longer mentions Windows versions in their ads any more? Back in the olden days (when MSFT made gazillions of dollars selling users the latest and greatest version of their operating system) they stressed the versions they were selling in order to get more buyers. You haven’t bought Windows 3.3 yet? Or Win 98? Or Windows Vista? But times have changed.

If buyers don’t care what version of their OS they are using then there is no way to induce them to pay for a new version. How many people know, or care, what version of what OS they are using on the smartphone or tablet? Probably very, very few.

We are now in a post-Windows world. Consumers no longer care what version of OS they use…. as long as it works and gets the job done for them.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Economic Growth

The U.S. economy showed a 0.7 percent increase in retail sales from the month before, and a nearly five percent improvement over the same period in 2012, according to Commerce Department figures.

In addition, the electronics and appliances category sported an uncommonly large 1.1 percent jump.

“Consumers took advantage of a very promotional holiday season to shop at their favorite retailers during the Thanksgiving weekend,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
“Consumer confidence and sentiment are steadily improving, but spending remains at a modest pace. While it seems that the economy is improving, the future remains far from certain.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Gifts

Over the past few week I have received a lot of requests for holiday gift suggestions from family, friends and co-workers. That is always a very difficult question for me to answer so I'm looking for help.

Here's the question of the day: what present do you want for the holidays?


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Neptor Battery Pack Review

By George Harding

Need a way to charge both your cell phone and your tablet? Look no farther than the Neptor Battery Pack. This innovative product meets both needs in a very attractive package.

This compact charger has one button, two USB ports, a charging port and a flashlight.

One of the USB ports is dedicated to charging cell phones and similar low power devices. The other provides the higher power required to charge a tablet. Both can be used at the same time, if needed.

The battery is lithium polymer and charges in 5-7 hours, and can be recharged more than 500 times.

The button shows the battery charge status in four LED lights. A double press turns on the flashlight.

The charger has an appealing feel to it. The cover has a smooth, velvety feel to it. The charger is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. Five colors are available for you to choose: orange, red, pick, lime green and teal blue.

A handy extra feature is the flashlight, which you can use to illuminate a door lock or even a book.

The product comes with the Neptor,  a micro USB to USB cable, the user manual  and a handy lanyard.

Neptor Battery Pack by Eagle Tech Computers        
Price about $50

Friday, December 13, 2013

Angry Birds Go!

Angry Birds Go! Rovio’s ambition is to make Angry Birds bigger than Mickey Mouse. But to do that, it has to keep making games that are more popular than their predecessors. With the launch today of Angry Birds Go!, Rovio’s ability to do that will be put to the test.

After all, we all may be a little sick of the cute-and-angry fowls. The pigs are getting on our nerves too, after nearly 2 billion downloads of the previous games. Still, Espoo, Finland-based Rovio is giving it its best shot as the free-to-play Angry Birds Go! storms into app stores around the world in a simultaneous global launch.

With Rovio games, downloads aren’t a problem. But staying in the top ranks of the top-grossing games is a challenge. Right now, in the iOS app store in the U.S., Rovio doesn’t have a game in the top 50 grossing games, and Angry Birds Star Wars II has fallen to No. 96 on that list, according to market researcher App Annie. Angry Birds is No. 27 on the top paid games list, while Angry Birds Star Wars is No. 45, Angry Birds Seasons is No. 65, and Bad Piggies is No. 85.

These are not the kind of rankings that Rovio has been used to. With Angry Birds Go!, Rovio has taken its birds into three dimensions as they race through Piggy Island. The game is a downhill kart racing title akin to Nintendo’s Mario Kart. It has 50 different soapbox karts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Yahoo Mail Outage

Despite promising to restore Yahoo Mail service to its customers by 5pm EST, an unknown number of users are still unable to log in, and remain without email service.

An unknown number of users have been affected by Yahoo's as-yet-unnamed problem, spanning at least two and a half weeks - a problem that was not openly acknowledged by Yahoo until yesterday.

Only today Yahoo Mail's head Jeff Bonforte finally addressed the massive outage that has kept Mail users from sending or receiving email since at least November 25, in a blog post on the Yahoo Mail Tumblr.

As of this writing, Bonforte - the man who told employees at a staff meeting last Friday that the only way Yahoo Mail customers would leave the service was if Yahoo kicked Mail users in the [testicles] - is on Twitter hurrying to politely placate Mail's outraged users.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ubuntu for Smartphones

Canonical has just signed its first deal to supply a smartphone with its mobile operating system, Canonical founder and product strategy leader Mark Shuttleworth revealed in an interview here at the LeWeb conference. He wouldn't say which company has agreed to use the Linux-based OS, but said it will be offered on high-end phones in 2014.

"We have concluded our first set of agreements to ship Ubuntu on mobile phones," Shuttleworth said. "We've shifted gears from 'making a concept' to 'it's going to ship.' That has a big impact on the team."

And, he said, Canonical is in board-level discussions with several others: "We are now pretty much at the board level on four household brands. They sell a lot of phones all over the world, in emerging and fully emerged markets, to businesses and consumers."

It's significant progress for a nine-year-old company that has specialized in the Ubuntu version of Linux. But it's a very long way to making even a small dent in the dominance of Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another MSFT "Error"

The Redmondians are now saying that date was posted in error. The new official word is that Microsoft still has yet to determine when the Windows 7 preload cut-off date will be. (Neowin reported the change from October 30, 2014 to "TBD" over the weekend.)

A spokesperson supplied the following statement explaining the mix-up:
"We have yet to determine the end of sales date for PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled. The October 30, 2014 date that posted to the Windows Lifecycle page globally last week was done so in error. We have since updated the website to note the correct information; however, some non-English language pages may take longer to revert to correctly reflect that the end of sales date is 'to be determined.' We apologize for any confusion this may have caused our customers. We’ll have more details to share about the Windows 7 lifecycle once they become available."

Microsoft also confirmed that the other cut-off date -- the end of availability of boxed copies of Windows 7 sold at retail -- was, indeed, October 30, 2013.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft ends up sticking with the October 30, 2014 OEM cutoff date or not. That timing would make sense if the Softies think they can get more Windows 7 users on a path toward upgrading (or at least considering upgrading) to Windows 8 within a year's time. If things aren't going so well, perhaps Microsoft will push the PC-preload date out further.

Monday, December 9, 2013

BitDefender Review

By George Harding

Today we have many solutions for fending off viruses attempting to take over our desktops and laptops.

Their Total Security 2013 provides protection for desktops and laptops. Here’s what you get:

  • Defense against viruses, spam and ID theft
  • Parental controls
  • Superior firewall protection
  • Online data storage
  • Syncing data across devices
  • Loss or theft protection
  • Safepay for online banking and shopping
  • Lock and wipe facility when your device is stolen

These features make Bitdefender one of the leading providers of protection software for your laptop and desktop.

But what about our mobile devices? Similar protection is available for your mobile device. The Clueful series from Bitdefender protect Apple and Android devices against not only viruses, but also theft, electronic threats, and battery status.

Clueful checks your IOs apps to see which ones display possibly harmful behavior, such as uploading stuff from your contact list, allowing unencrypted passwords, uploading your location and those that manipulate your calendar

Similar protection is available for Android mobile devices.

These are worthwhile services to have, whether for your desktop/laptop or any mobile device.

Price $80 for Internet Total Security, $10 per year for Clueful for IOs or Android