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
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.
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.
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).
Wireless networks ( wifi or wi-fi) are everywhere these days with more and more people coming to depend on having an available signal for their laptops and portable devices such as smart phones and iType devices, but with this proliferation comes some issues that people need to be aware of. While it is admirable to want to share your wireless internet access with others, doing so caries a legal risk. Government and law enforcement tend to hold the owner of the internet connection responsible for what is transmitted over it and as such, if your neighbors are using your wireless to illegally download songs, movies or other material that is illegal, it is your door that gets pounded on by the law, putting you in the position of having to prove it wasn’t you. A quite simple solution is to ensure that you have wireless security enabled on your router (if you are unsure of how to do this, you can visit the manufacturers website of your router and check out their support section for directions, or talk to your local computer expert).
Then of course their is the initial purchase of the wireless hardware needed for your network. Wireless a, Wireless b, Wireless g, Wireless N, Wireless super G, MIMO, bgn, abg, dual band, multi band etc etc – it can get kind of confusing. A quick history on the wireless types as well as their basic specifications and uses:
Wireless a (802.11a) came out in 1999 and is one of the lesser used types of wireless due to the it’s higher initial price and the fact that its signal generally cannot penetrate as far as wireless b/g/n devices and its signals are abosobed more by walls and other objects. This type of wireless operates in the 5 GHz band with a data rate of 54 Mbit/s (realistically about 20 Mbit/s) which gives a big advantage when it comes to interference as the 5 GHz band is much less crowded than the 2.4 GHz band which is used by many other devices.
Wireless b (802.11b) came out in 199 as well and was the first widely adopted kind of wireless router device. With speeds of 11 Mbit/s (real world about 6 Mbit/s) and a typical indoor range of about 100 ft at the rated 11 Mbit/s speed and about 300 ft at 1 Mbit, wireless b was a great choice for early home and small office environments. Unfortunately, wireless b operates in the 2.4 GHz range which causes it to suffer from interference from other devices such as microwaves, bluetooth, older cordless telephones, baby monitors and of course other wireless routers that operate in this range. This kind of interference can get quite bad in populated areas and can cause a lot of frustration from dropped and poor quality wireless signals.
Wireless g (802.11g) came out in 2003 and operates in the same 2.4 GHz spectrum as wirelss b, but with a higher rated speed of 54 Mbit/s (around 20 Mbit/s real world). It is fully backward compatible with wireless b devices, however using mixed wireless g and wireless b devices will significantly reduce the overall speed of the wireless g network. Wireless g unfortunately also suffers from the crowded 2.4 GHz spectrum and is prone to interference issues in areas with other devices which operate in the same frequency. *Note: Super G wireless is a term that refers to a wireless device which uses to wireless g channels to achieve a rated speed of up to 108 Mbit/s, however these devices also have the potential to cause more interference.
Wireless n (802.11n) was released in its approved form in 2009, though many devices were sold before then as ‘pre-n’ devices. Wireless n has significantly higher potential data rates (up to 600 Mbit/s) and is backward compatible with previous wireless a, b, and g devices. Wireless N can operate on both the 2.4 GHz and 5GHz ranges, although it is quickest when operating in ‘pure’ wireless n mode at the 5 GHz mode (‘pure’ n mode being where there are only wireless n devices hooked into the network). Wireless n uses MIMO (technology which uses multiple antennas) to achieve greater data rates over greater distances. There are also now a number of Wireless n routers which offer multi-channel broadcasting which allows the router to actually have 2 wireless networks – one for legacy 2.4 GHz devices and one for 5 GHz devices.
So what does all this mean in a practical sense when trying to figure out what kind of equipment to get? While generally the older wireless b and g devices are cheaper by a few bucks, they are also much more prone to interference so it is recommended to go with wireless n devices whenever possible. Also, if you have an older laptop (or desktop) that is using a wireless b or g card, if you have a newer wireless n router, you might consider upgrading the wireless b and g devices with a wireless n card (you can easily install a wireless n usb dongle on either a laptop or desktop that is currently using wireless b or g, and then just disable the older device through your device manager). Be aware that wireless N devices come in many configurations and different speed ratings (some are rated at the a lower 150 Mbit/s while others are rated at 300 Mbit/s)>
So for a quick recap: If you are setting up your wireless network, or thinking about upgrading it, consider going with the newer wireless n devices. When setting up your wireless network, be sure to enable wireless security to ensure that only allowed people are using your wireless signal. For questions, or help setting up your home or office wireless network here in Pensacola FL, contact Pensacola Computers