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 just upgraded my phone, a Droid X, to the latest Samsung 4G Droid Charge running on Verizon’s network, and I must say, after a bit of tweaking, I am quite happy. 4G is amazing with blazingly fast download and upload speeds, in fact, my phone is now as fast or faster than most people’s home intenet here in Pensacola. The folks at the Pensacola Verizon store on 9th ave were great as always, making the transition as painless as possible. While 4G is fairly new to Pensacola, I was pleasantly surprised on a recent trip to New Orleans to find that 4G was available for a good portion of the trip and it seems to be pretty strong in most areas of Pensacola. The Droid Charge has a ton of great points and a few not so great points, though with a bit of tweaking, those not so great points are easily manageable.
The Droid Charge 4G gives you quite a few things you definitely won’t find on any iPhone, starting with 4G. 4G speeds allow for much faster communication on the internet and allow applications like Netflix to work as they are supposed to, without freezing and stuttering. It also allows for smooth video calls via apps like Fring or Google Talk. Browsing the web is also a pleasure with full Adobe Flash support so you get to experience the full web (something no Apple iOS device can do). The Droid Charge also has a pretty good 8MP rear facing camera that takes good pictures and video, and a front facing camera for video calls. Add an HDMI port so you can hook up an HD monitor (although with the Allshare app you can easily share your media via a wireless network to wireless devices).
Stock out of the box, the Samsung Droid Charge does not have the greatest battery life – in my tests I was getting about 8-10 hours of normal usage. However you can get an extended battery, or even better, you can avail yourself of the wonderful Android development community (I like xda-developers.com) to find a wealth of free custom ROMS that replace the stock Android software. Most of the custom ROMS are pre-rooted (which allows you much more freedom in customizing your device), and many are highly optomized to give you better performance and much better battery life. Using some apps like the LTE switch (which allows you to switch easily between 3G and 4G) and a custom ROM, I am now easily getting a full day + of battery life with a bit heavier than normal usage. There is a HUGE community of developers behind the Android devices, and people are coming out with new tweaks, fixes and enhancements just about every day.
4G on Verizon also give you what ATT touted for a long time with their iPhone – the ability to talk and surf the web at the same time. While I never really saw this as a must have feature, it is nice to know you can do it if you want to. The Droid Charge has an amazingly bright screen which you can see even on a bright sunny Pensacola Florida day, and with all of its features like GPS, 2 Cameras, HDMI and USB ports, highly customizable Android OS, it is the best smartphone I have ever owned. Add in the ability (once rooted) to add free wireless tethering apps that you can use to make your phone a wireless hotspot without the extra charges (just don’t get greedy), I have found that the Samsung Droid Charge 4G from Verizon is certainly making my communication a lot better and easier. With my work for Pensacola Computers, I can easily access what I need to when I need to and have fun doing it!
Microsoft has finally taken the wraps off of the upcoming Windows 8 which is due out in 2012 and I must say there are some amazing innovations. Using a new HTML5 driven application development, Microsoft has shown that it is definitely willing and able to compete in the current and future market. Developing an operating system that can easily run on both standard desktops and laptops as well as tablets is something that only Microsoft would tackle, and looking at the preview of Windows 8, it looks like they are headed in the right direction.
Of course, all the old familiar Windows apps will still work which makes it even better – the ability to use the programs that people are used to, combined with the new cutting edge technology that enhances our ability to consume and produce information just about anywhere.
Following is a video from Microsoft which highlights some of the new features they are working on for Windows 8:
Pensacola Computers has been Microsoft Beta Testers since 2002 and was heavily involved in both Windows Vista and Windows 7 development – we are expecting to be fully involved in the testing for Windows 8 and will be able to help individuals and organizations with any questions in the upcoming months.
The Android tablets are swamping the market and people are loving that they now have choices and alternatives to the Apple iPad. While some people swear by the iPads, in the end the iPad is just a bigger iPod and is hampered by its lack of Flash, it’s inability to easily connect to other devices, it’s lack of external media, and of course its price. While other tablets like the Motorola Xoom are similarly priced, they also have better specs generally than the iPad. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad does have a great looking screen and it is also pretty smooth running – although Steve Jobs trickery does fool people into believing his products run so much better (even notice how Apple apps never crash? well they do, it’s just that unlike Android which tells you when something goes wrong, when most iPad apps crash they just disappear which makes many people believe that they accidentally closed the app).
It has always bothered me that the iPad can’t run flash and doesn’t have USB ports etc (for the fanbois, I bought one of the first iPads in Pensacola and used it heavily for the first few months so I know what its strong and weak points are first hand). Ever since I got my Xoom, my iPad has gone mostly unused. I love that Android offers a choice, and I love that there is such a strong development community behind it. The G-tablet is the perfect example, and with its current price @ $279, it is quite appealing for many as a first tablet. I got my Gtab back around Thanksgiving of last year, and have loved using it and playing around with it. It has many custom ROM’s available (a new one just about every week), and they even have an early port of Android 3 Honeycomb running on it.
Rooting most Android devices, and/or installing a custom ROM is generally as easy as either installing an app, or copying a couple files from your computer to your device then rebooting into its recovery mode. While there is always a ‘small’ amount of danger when messing around with a devices software, devices like the Gtablet are just about unbrickable (you can easily soft-brick it, but after installing literally hundreds of ROM’s on mine, I have always been able to recover from any problems).
If you want to play around with your Android device, it is much like having a ‘work’ in progress automobile – you know the kind that you are always adding something to, improving, changing. The most important thing is to invest a little time and read and watch the tutorials available before jumping in. Rooting and swapping ROMS is actually easier than it may seem. I have taught an 80 year old grandma how to root her Gtablet, and she is now enjoying custom ROMS on it. If you can copy and paste files on your computer, you should be able to swap out a ROM on your Gtablet. With new roms like ‘Century Eyes’, ‘Brilliant Corners’, and ‘Mountain Laurel’, the G-tablet has some great alternatives for software – Android unlike Apple is very much about freedom of choice.
Having Flash on your tablet is a great thing, allowing you to view the full web, not just the iPad web. While there has been a push to move some things to HTML5 in terms of videos etc, Adobe Flash is not going anywhere and is still running on fairly large slice of internet sites.
There is no doubt in my mind that it won’t be long before the iPad is overcome by the wealth of other tablets on the market because in the end, freedom of choice wins out. Apple does make impressive products, but they are limited by both function (what Steve Jobs decides you should have) and by price which is usually much higher than they should be (Apple’s profit margin is HUGE compared to most other companies).
At Pensacola Computers, we offer help with the Gtablet and Xoom and provide services for Rooting and custom ROM installation on the Gtablet. Check out the tutorial videos on the Pensacola Computers Youtube Channel
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.
There are more Android tablets coming out every day, and I have been lucky enough to own a number of them. From my first Archos 5 internet tablet, to the Gtablet I have had since last November, to my latest, the Motorola XOOM, Android is poised to take a huge chunk of the tablet market away from Apple. Not that the iPad is worthless, it has its place. The iPad is a wonder of fine design and it definitely sets the mark in some areas for what others should strive for. Of course it is overpriced and limited in some critical areas, which is why Android is going to be able to whack away at Apple’s current domination of the tablet market.
I love how you can easily tether the Gtable and Xoom to an Android phone. With the gtablet, it is as easy as Rooting (or installing a pre-rooted custom ROM) and then running one of the better tether apps - my personal favs are wifi-tether and barnacle( see Viewsonic G-Tablet Wireless tether to Droid 1 via Barnacle video). The XOOM is even better as it has native Bluetooth tethering and I can easily tether it to my DroidX phone and use the Droids data plan (the XOOM does not have to be rooted to do this either!).
The thing I really like the most about the Android devices is the amazing community of developers and helpers that it has spawned. There are numerous forums devoted to making these devices better with custom ROMS and tips and tricks to get them running great! The people are amazing and so helpful. My favorite site is xda-developers.com, which has an incredible number of amazing people who thankfully post a great collection of How-to’s for a huge number of Android devices. Want to know how to Root your Xoom? Want to know how to flash a custom ROM to your Gtablet? Want to learn how to tether your Xoom or tether your Gtablet? xda-developers has how-to’s for every one of those topics. I myself have made a bunch of video tutorials on how to do things on the gtablet and the XOOM, but almost everything I have learned has started with things I read on xda-developers.com. Super thanks to everyone there! Android Rocks!
For a bunch of my tutorials, head over to my site: http://pensacolacomputers.com
The iPad 2 is coming, the iPad 2 is coming and it is the greatest thing ever (NOT) – this is what the Steve Jobs hype factory is blowing up our rears, and it is sad to see how many suckers are falling for it. Is the iPad 2 better than the original iPad? Sure it is, it has a better processor, better graphics and ooooooo it now has cameras on it (pretty poor cameras, but if Apple tells us that having the cameras makes it so much better then we must obey and jump up and down with joy ).
The truth is, most of the enhancements are things that most normal people will never notice the difference, nor are the added features ones that people will use more than as a novelty. The performance of the original iPad was pretty good when it came to browsing the limited Web that Steve Jobs allows us to view, and most apps ran pretty good on it. The difference in performance will be noticed by the uber-geek crowd, but not by many others. The cameras are a total joke – the pictures they take look grainy at best, not even high enough quality to post to facebook without people feeling sorry for you for having such a poor camera, and the video capabilities are nothing more than a novelty for most. Sure you can use the ‘cool’ photo software which Steve makes money off of, but do you really want to spend money on an app to edit a crappy looking picture?
The real sad part is the people who are all rushing out so they can have the latest and greatest Apple hype toy are going to be out another wad of cash when the iPad 3 comes out later this year (believe me, the Apple hype machine will start ramping that up as soon as the sales of the iPad 2 level off in a few weeks). If you held off buying an iPad because you were waiting for an iPad 2, you would be much better off waiting until the iPad 3 or better and best, waiting for the new crop of Android tablets which will spank the iPad in so many ways. Steve and Apple may be running way ahead right now, but they are running with their shoes untied and they are headed for a nasty trip and fall!
Then of course is the fact that the iPad 2 still doesn’t support Flash. Steve Jobs is up so high on his high horse that he cannot afford to backtrack and allow Flash on his precious devices, and sorry to tell you Steve, Flash isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, a number of video sites have added the capability for other formats so that you can see limited videos on the iPad, but still a large number of the web’s videos are Flash, as are a huge number of websites. I personally think that it sucks big time that you spend so much money on a device to view the web, and you go to a website and all you see is a box because some company president cannot produce a high priced piece of technology that a cheap $250 walmart special PC can run, or perhaps they can produce such a thing, but his ego is too big to allow it because ‘he’ doesn’t like it. Apple is all about control, controlling everything you do with the product that you bought but they still consider to be theirs.
While the Android devices are still in their infancy, they show promise and I will put my money on them because at least they offer me something that Apple never will – a choice to have things my way! Android phones have already surpassed iPhones and Apple will never regain that lead, and the tablet market is poised to have the same thing happen. Sure, Apple and the iPad have a huge lead, but once again, Apple is offering you a very limited choice (it’s their way or no way), while the Android device market is all about having as much choice as possible. Developers for iPad apps are rapidly jumping ship to Android because they see that there is more potential, and they are not subjected to the huge Apple tax that is imposed upon them.
So go out, get the iPad 2 and look cool to everyone – for at least a few months until the iPad 3 comes out, and the new crop of Android tablets comes out, at which point you are then stuck with yesterday’s cast off which means you aren’t cool any longer (at least in Apple’s eye’s).
Just a note to the fanbois – I own an iPad, and for what it is capable of, it is a great device – not worth the price really, but it does run pretty smoothly. I also own a few Android devices, which while not as smooth are much more versatile in what I can do with them (and they allow me to view everything on the web). The new Xoom tablet has a lot of potential, and at least it has good cameras, the ability to run Flash, and easily allows me to swap files between my computer and it and use these files in any way I want. I can also tether my Xoom easily to my Android phone with bluetooth or wifi hot spot which makes it even more affordable.
Pensacola Computers presents: We show you how to tether your Motorola Xoom tablet running Android 3 Honeycomb, to a Droid X via built in Bluetooth. This ‘should’ work on some other Android phones as well and they shouldn’t need to be rooted in order for this to work.
Visit http://pensacolacomputers.com for the latest updates and support for computers and Android devices.
Pensacola Computers Presents how to tether your Motorola Xoom Android 3 tablet to a DroidX using the free Wireless Tether app. This will work on phones that have the ‘ability’ to create a wireless hotspot but do not have the Verizon hotspot plan.