Happy Holidays everyone! Once again it is that time of year, and I am always asked what I think are good tech gifts for Christmas and what kind of things to buy. This year, tablets are hot! From the new Amazon Fire, to some really nice new Android tablets, to the every present iPads. One thing to remember, Tablets are designed as consumption devices, they are great to browse the web, read emails, play games on, but they are not a replacement for a computer, nor are they generally very good for creation (writing a long letter, or trying to update a spreadsheet are not really enjoyable or easy on a tablet). If you simply Must have an iPad, take consolation that as soon as you (or whoever you give it to) get it set up and get your apps paid for that the iPad 3 will be coming out. If you are going the mobile data route, then iPad’s are no competition for the new 4G enabled Android tablets which give you blazing fast internet speeds, and full Flash so you can actually view pretty much all websites out there (something Apple mobile devices will never be able to do). The iPads do have their uses, and they are well made devices, but they are pricey and are in reality not much more than a stretched out iPod. I personally prefer the Android tablets as there is much more choice in devices, and I find they have more and better features that I want. Also, if you happen across a cheap HP Touchpad, you can fairly easily install CyanogenMod Android ROM on it, thus making it a truly worthy tablet – the Touchpad is an awesome device in terms of harware and quality of its build, however the stock WebOS leaves a bit to be desired. At the prices they have been going for though, it is certainly worth a look. Tablets are growing in popularity, and are certainly something that has many different uses and they make a great gift. I would be hesitant about dropping $500+ on a tablet for a child to play games on though as one drop and it’s game over for good!
For computers, Laptops are all the rage, but be careful, you often get what you pay for in terms of quality. I prefer the new iCore series of processors from intel i3, i5, and i7, as they generally have the best power/performance and in my experience usually run better than many of the AMD’s. Stay away from Celeron, Atom, etc unless you are looking for long battery life at the expense of performance. As always, more RAM is better, and just as important is the quality of graphics – the higher end nVidia and ATI graphics are needed if you plan on any serious gaming or graphic/video editing. Also make sure you check out the screen resolution and how they look in real lighting – there is a HUGE difference in screen quality out there, and the only real way to tell is by direct observation!
In the end, what you choose is up to you, but it always pays to do a bit of research first: check online, talk to friends, ask your neighborhood geek – whatever you do though, don’t ever count on or listen to the sales people at your local BestBuy/OfficeDepot etc. While some of them may be knowledgable, in my experience, most of them have no idea what they are talking about, and often give totally false or misleading information (if they really knew that much about technology, would they be working at one of these retail outlets?) – whatever you do, don’t fall prey to the upsell of basically worthless extended warranty service (you can often get extended warranties direct for the manufacturers), nor should you buy any of the offered security products or add on services they offer (why should you pay them to take off the same crap they themselves put on your computer in the first place!).
As always if you have any questions, need some help with new techology setup, or need computer service or repair here in Pensacola Florida, feel free to contact us at http://pensacolacomputers.com
No doubt about it, Apple devices have made a huge impact over the past few years with some amazing innovations, but at what price to our technological intelligence? Apple has swarmed the market with iPods, iPhones and iPads, basically all the same device in a different size (the phone makes calls, but that is about the only main difference). Steve Jobs has decided how the world should use portable devices with his ‘Apps’ and he has done a masterful job at it. Have you ever noticed that nothing ever ‘appears’ to crash on these Apple devices? That is because Steve is quite a good manipulator, he decided that he would pull the wool over our eyes and made it so that when an App on one of his devices has a problem, it just disappears – no warning, no error message, just poof, its gone. This is a great psychological dupe of people. Many people end up thinking that they accidentally closed the app with a bump, swipe, or touch, when in fact the app just crashed due to bad programming by Apple or the Apps maker.
The Apple devices like the iPad have taught us a different way of doing things – and many times that way is harder and more innefficient. Sure, the iPad is a great device for consumption of data, for viewing things, for reading, for surfing the web, but it is quite innefficient at data creation. I have seen many businesses fall for the lure of the iPad, not so much because it helps them, but because of the cool factor (many ‘thought’ it would help them, until they actually tried to use them). Don’t get me wrong, Tablets definitely have a place in business, but it is sad to see someone like a doctor struggle with trying to enter data on an iPad and taking 10 times longer than it would take to sit at the PC that is right there. I almost laugh out loud when I see people trying to use an App clumsily with their fingers that would be so much easier to do on a real computer with a mouse and keyboard. When it comes to using technology efficiently, Apple definitely makes us dumb.
Then of course we have the wonderful Apple marketing machine that has placed Apple devices in Schools wherever they can. This is so the young impressionable ones will see them and want one – and who wouldn’t want a sleek, aluminum body laptop, or all in one with that big Apple logo? Of course no one explains to the kids that learning how to use an Apple won’t get them squat when it comes to applying for a job. Businesses do not use Apple computer’s, they are not made for business, they are not secure, they do not have hardly any business software, and 99% of the worlds businesses run computers other than Apple. A security expert at the latest Black Hat security conference summed up the danger of using Apple’s Server computer in a business environment when he said “once you install OS X Server you’re toast“. Learning how to use a Mac will actually probably hurt students when it comes time to venture out into the business world as they will have to relearn many things. It may be ‘cool’ to have that Apple in class, but cool doesn’t pay the bills.
Now don’t get me wrong – Apple makes excellent quality devices, they pretty much always have (despite their massive exploitation of Chinese workers, but hey, everyone does that <sarc>), it is also true that you have less of a chance of getting malware or a virus on a Mac (not because they are more secure, that myth has been shattered), it’s because people write most viruses today to make money and infecting computers that hold such a small share of the market just isn’t that profitable. The iPad is slick, it has an easy to use interface, and it doesn’t show errors like Android devices (which do tell you when there is an error with the software). The iOS devices have a wealth of apps, which also make a wealth of money for Apple, and you can find an app for just about anything that Steve Jobs will allow you to have, because after all, it appears as if Steve wants people to be dumb when it comes to technology, that is how Apple has made their money.
I got an original iPad when it first came out, both because it was something different and so I could support a number of clients who were getting them. It was cool, a very slick toy, but in the end it was a toy, just a larger iPod (which is Exactly what it is). Sure, it had some cool apps, most of which cost $$$ that add up much too quickly. The interface is very polished, as well it should be considering the years of iPod development that came before it. But in the end, it is the glaring lack of some things that make it undesirable (despite what Steve Jobs hype machine will try to make you believe).
It doesn’t support flash, which contrary to Steve’s godlike wishes isn’t going to disappear any time soon. Without flash, a very sizable chunk of the web is not accessible, and I for one am not happy having a device that is that limited when it comes to web browsing – I hate that Steve Jobs is the one to decide what I can and can’t view – it is not that the iPad can’t view flash, it is that Steve will not allow it to, plain and simple. The hardware can handle it, albiet on some sites it might stutter, but at least give me that option. I also hate that I cannot easily transfer files to and from the iPad – both because of the lack of hardware support like the ability to use a SD type card, and the huge limitation of the software of iOS which is after all designed for a toy and not a computing device.
With the growing influx of Tablets running Android, I now have a choice. A choice between a number of devices which easily can view the entire web including flash content. Devices that support external media like SD type cards. Devices that have an actual file system that you can easily transfer to and from other devices (I can even do it very simply over a wireless network). In addition, I like having devices that have a huge development community behind them, a community that is not based on one man’s whim’s. The Android community is constantly striving to provide enhancements (free) to make your device better, more customizable, and more personalized.
I got a Viewsonic Gtablet back in November and considering it was less than 1/2 the cost of an iPad, has full flash support, supports an external SD card, USB, HDMI, and has a huge number of custom software ROMS available, it is a good starting point for Android. I have used this device for months, and while it doesn’t have built in 3G, it is very easy to tether it to my Android phone and use its data plan (and I don’t pay any extra for that either!). While in all honesty, the gtablet’s screen does not have as good a viewing angle as the iPad, and the current Android 2.2 software is not totally tablet optomized, it is one of the first of a new breed of Android devices.
Then comes my Xoom, which has pretty much totally replaced my iPad usage. The Xoom was the first Android 3.0 device, and while still having some growing pains, it is so much better in so many ways than the iPad that in the few areas that it is currently lacking, I can easily get by and actually not get ticked off when using it as I often did with the iPad. Steve Jobs is definitely smart and a Master of deception. One of the biggest complaints of Android devices is what they call Force Closes (FC’s). These happen on apps when something goes wrong, you get a message saying the app has a problem and is closing. This is frustrating for sure, and is often caused by people trying to run apps designed for other devices (phones apps on a tablet etc). Apple was much sneakier – instead of the common practice of coding applications with error code that runs when something goes wrong, Apple apps just disappear when they encounter a problem, or in the rare case, the device just freezes. This has the effect of making many people think that it is They who did something wrong, like accidentally closing the app – smart ploy by Apple that takes advantage of people by making them think it is their fault their device is not working properly.
With my Xoom, I have full access to all of my files, both on it and my home and business computer. I can watch TV shows, movies, browse the FULL web, watch all of the videos on YouTube (something you can’t do on any iOS device), I can even easily write my own apps and install them plus I have access to many different app markets like the Google Android market, the Amazon Android market (which gives away a free paid for app every day!), as well as numerous other smaller app marketplaces. I like having a CHOICE in my devices, in what I can do with them and in how I want to use them. The Xoom even comes stock with the ability to Unlock it to allow you to install any kind of software you want on it!
Despite all of the iPad hype – I think Steve’s ad machine has done a great job duping the public into believing they Need an iPad 2 (come on, it’s a slightly slimmer iPad with crappy cameras that aren’t even a megapixel, as compared to the Xoom’s 5 MP and 1.3 MP cameras). But while people play and PAY with their Apple toys, I will quietly work and enjoy my freedom of choice with Android.
With the success of the iPad, despite its many lacks and drawbacks, many people are discovering the advantages of having a tablet. While they are still something of a luxury item, the technology is evolving rapidly and with new tablets like the soon to be released Motorola Xoom, tablets are poised to become a mainstream item. Earlier Android tablets like the Viewsonic Gtablet with its nVidia tegra 2 processor, ability to play HD video, and thankfully the ability to view the FULL web in all its glory by supporting Adobe Flash, have helped make tablets more and more desirable.
Tablets are consumption devices, and what is great about them is they are extremely portable and easy to carry around – with an abundance of cases that make them more like carrying a book, they are stylish and professional at the same time. I have found that tablets are great to take to a restaurant – nice to be able to browse the news on the internet while waiting for food, or have immediate access to email (much easier to read and respond to than using a smartphone). It is also nice to have a tablet in the car for passengers to browse the internet easily without the bulk of even a netbook.
The Motorola Xoom, while still a bit on the pricey side, has an abundance of features such as front and rear facing cameras, full support for Flash, USB, Wifi, Bluetooth, and the pricier models have 3G (upgradable to 4G). With larger and higher resolution screen than the iPad, and sporting Googles Android 3, the Xoom is looking like the one to beat for the near future (regardless of what Apple comes up with for the iPad 2, as long as they refuse to support Flash it just doesn’t make sense to fork out that kind of money for something that has a limted web experience).
Of course I will probably grab a Xoom when it comes out here in Pensacola, and it will probably replace my iPad and Gtablet as device of choice, and it very well may be the one that I recommend to all those who smartly decided they didn’t want to line Steve Jobs pockets by paying the Apple premium for an iPad.
This past year has seen a huge explosion in the mobile phone market with the newest crop of Android phones jumping past the iPhone and Blackberry’s as the most popular – and for good reason: Android is a much more open platform, allowing developers to make applications freely while also not being subjected to the draconian Apple apps rules and fees. While both the Blackberry devices and the iPhone offer some pretty good features (the Blackberry still being the best for Enterprise business users), there are things that have contributed to their losing market share, such as the crappy ATT service (Pensacola ATT service is spotty at best in many places).
So if you are looking for a new phone, the question comes, what to buy? One of the biggest factors is what you need your phone to do, as well as how much you want to pay for it – the initial cost of the phone is usually not as much of a factor as the continuing cost of the service. Smart-phone costs can add up quite quickly, especially with the added services such as tethering or mobile hot spots and high usage data plans (ATT has stopped their unlimited data plans and now requires you to pay in blocks which can be very expensive if you use just a little bit too much in a month.). Personally I have found that Verizon coverage is some of the best -Pensacola Verizon service is pretty good, and it definitely is one of the best when travelling across the US, however their pricing is not the cheapest so it is a trade-off between cost and benefits.
I currently am using a Droid (the original, although I plan on moving to a newer Android device in the near future). One of the things that I love about the current crop of Android phones is their ability to view Flash websites and play Flash games, something that the iPhone will never be able to do thanks to Steve (wanna be god) Jobs. In addition, I do like the easy integration with Google apps (gmail, google maps, etc). Also, with the soon to be released Android and Windows based tablets (like the Samsung Galaxy), the wireless hotspot capabilities may come in handy (while I currently have an iPad, I hate being hampered with its shortcomings such as the lack of flash, no usb ports, no camera, etc).
In the end, it comes down to a dizzying array of choices when it comes to phones, so be sure to take some time and do a bit of research before taking the plunge, and look carefully at all the associated costs.
While I have personally had an iPad since right after they were released, I still stick to my opinion that although it does have its uses and pluses, it is definitely not worth the money as its shortcomings (such as no Flash support, no USB, no camera, and ATT suck service) make it frustrating to use. Apple did beat a lot of companies to the punch by delivering a working (somewhat) model to market that has been embraced by many, however it was in no way Apple’s idea (look at the Pads in Star Trek for a clue), and there are now many new tablets about to hit the market which promise to deliver things that the iPad just can’t do.
Archos has had tablets out for a while now, and while not receiving the attention of the iPad (mostly due to lack of 3G connectivity), their Android based wifi tablets are pretty cool and are packed with all kinds of cool features such as true HD support, and the ability to use many of the apps from the Android store (in my opinion, a much better option than the overcontrolled and rip-off Apple apps market). RIM (the makers of Blackberry’s) is now entering the fray, and their PlayBook tablet promises to be much more business and enterprise useable – the iPad is just not secure and that is a deal breaker when it comes to being able to really use it in a business setting. The Samsung Galaxy is another new tablet that really shines in terms of features. With 3G, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Android 2.2 OS, front and rear facing cameras, Flash support, HD video support, the Galaxy has many of the things that the iPad currently lacks.
Tablet computers are really designed as consumption devices – they are great for viewing web content, videos, listening to music, etc. They are not the greatest for creating content as it is not very efficient to type on them, nor do they have the precise control which many computer applications need. That being said, I think that tablet devices are certainly going to explode across the market as people WANT consumption devices. They will not replace computers as creation devices, but they will certainly find a place in many people’s technology device arsenal as consumption devices.
My advice for those thinking about a Tablet is to wait a bit to see the what the upcoming crop of tablets will bring – iPads are just too overpriced and limited, and the non 3G tablets are likewise limited in the sense that you can only use them in wi-fi areas. There are sure to be tablets that will use Verizon here in Pensacola, or another wireless 3G or 4G provider other than ATT which has some serious issues in Pensacola (I hate the constant dropped 3G signals on the iPad).
I was ‘lucky’? enough to get an iPad the other day for reviewing. As a number of people I do work for have gotten one, or are thinking about getting one, I was certainly interested to put it through it’s paces. Apple has a lot riding on the iPad, and from a marketing standpoint, they have done an amazing job at building the hype, and keeping it going, unfortunately the actual implementation isn’t quite as polished as Apple’s advertising machine. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are some things to like about the iPad, so I will cover those first.
What I liked:
What I don’t like:
While the iPad does have some nice features, and it certainly will spur the innovation in the market, in my opinion, it is definitely not worth the hefty price tag. It is really just a cool toy (although I do love to have cool toys!). It is definitely not ready for the enterprise or any kind of serious business useage, and while I have heard talk of businesses rushing out to adopt it into their business plans, I think they will find they are spending more time trying to use it that they were using their ‘clunky’ workstations or laptops. For an oversized iPod, it does have nice video display, but my recommendation is that unless you like wasting money, or have money to waste, wait a while to see what comes out in the next 6 months or so as there are certainly some very cool devices being developed that won’t have the shortcomings of the iPad.
The past few weeks have certainly been quite active in the technology world. From the much overhyped release of apple’s ipad to the pending release of Microsoft Office 2010, the press has certainly been filled with reviews, opinions and a lot of conflicting reports. There has also been an increase in Malware and virus attacks on the web, with more people’s computers falling victim to them – yes, even Apple computers are not immune to the bad things, and I had a good laugh when I saw that someone had hacked the new ipad less than 24 hours after its release.
I got a chance to play around with an iPad, and overall I was underwhelmed and not very impressed. Although the touch features do seem to be quite good (something that Apple is great with), the things that the iPad lacks are just too much to make it anything but an overpriced toy. the iPad’s lack of Flash support means that a lot of sites on the web are unviewable, as are the majority of video’s and web based games – of course Apple would be more than glad to sell you apps for games and such (while taking a nice 30% profit from the developers pockets). Then there is the fact that there are no USB ports, no camera, and the Wifi and battery have some serious issues. Also, Apple has now announced that they are going to be even more godlike in their control of what you can do with the hardware that people spend so much money to ‘own’ – sure, you own it, but Apple decides what you can and can’t do with it and what you can and can’t run on it. Personally, I will wait to see what the HP Slate tablet and Dell’s new Android based tablets will do as they are much more likely to actually have a value in terms of usability.
Microsoft has officially RTM’d Office 2010 (RTM=Release to Manufacturing) and it is looking like a pretty good product – stay tuned for a review as soon as I get the final copy! Microsoft is currently offering a great deal where if you buy a copy of Office 2007 in the next few months, you are eligible to get a download copy of Office 2010 when it is released, see: http://www.microsoft.com/office/offers/home/2/
I have recently noticed a big bump in Pensacola computer malware infections, with fake Antivirus applications leading the pack. These kind of infections are what they call ‘ Scareware ‘ – malware that is designed to scare you into either buying a worthless product, or in some cases trying to get your credit card number for nefarious purposes, and I have seen quite a few of these infecting computers in Pensacola FL the past few weeks. These scareware infections are designed to look like common security applications and come with names like ‘ Antivirus 7 ‘ (which resembles AVG), ‘ Antivirus 360 ‘ (which resembles Norton’s 360).
One of the most common ways these applications are installed are when you are directed to a page, or get a popup warning you that you are infected with something nasty and to download a tool to help you – the tool of course is the infection and it completely takes over your computer with even more false scary warning on how badly your machine is infected. The real bad downside of these infections is that they open the door for even more infections that are even nastier in what they do. Many times if you catch these infections as soon as you get them, you can do a System Restore to help deactivate them. However, once they become rooted in your system they do all kinds of things to try to stop you from removing them like disabling system restore, disabling task manager, disabling your antivirus and also blocking you from downloading tools that can help kill them.
For links to free and paid for antivirus/antispyware/antimalware software that can help protect you and remove some of these nasty infections visit Pensacola Computers Tech Page