Friday, July 25, 2014

Read this if you're thinking about connecting your TV to the Internet

You can connect a TV to the Internet in two ways. Higher priced new TV sets come with connection circuitry installed and the TV becomes another WiFi device on your home network. The alternative - buying a separate set top box - has the advantage of more flexibility. As this field evolves, you can replace the box - typically less than $100 - and not the TV. Since Amazon announced their new set top box recently, a reporter studied the reviews Amazon members gave to the devices they owned including Apple TV, Roku 3, Google Chromecast, and the new Amazon Fire TV. Here's the report.
To make things even more confusing Google just announced their third approach to connecting your TV - 2010 Google TV that was too much like a computer - keyboard required - 2013 Chromecast is an inexpensive "dongle" that attaches to the TV and has received good reviews and now - 2014 Android TV considered a more direct competitor of Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

(first published in May 2014 Newsletter)

What do you think of Facebook's psychological experiment?

If you're big in social media, you really should read what Facebook just revealed and decide whether you approve or disapprove. In summary, they manipulated the information users received to see if it would influence their behavior - i.e. what they posted. This article gives a good summary that is well worth reading and here's what ComputerWorld had to say. This situation is unfolding just as Google is starting to censor some of its searches! You can read much more about the "right to be forgotten" here - a landmark legal ruling.

(first published in July 2014 Newsletter)

Samsung tablets? have we got a deal for you - a lot of deals actually

I'm always shocked by the number of people who shoot in the dark when they make mobile tech purchases (remember people, these are real computers and not just $400 toys). They go out to buy a Samsung tablet since a friend had one - with no idea there are 22 different models of Samsung tablets available today. They end up buying one of the four models on the shelf of the local electronics store. What kind of decision process is that?

Here’s what Android fan and guru JR Raphael says about the current bumper crop of Samsung tablets. I'm sure there are many fine tablets on the list but they are not all created equal so just buying any old Samsung tablet is not the answer.

(first published in July 2014 Newsletter)

Camera comparison chart now available

Click to view camera comparison chart
As part of a new presentation on photography I've prepared a chart to compare prices and features of the seven common digital camera types - from smartphones and point and shoot cameras at one end to top of the line digital SLRs at the other end. Click here.
It is important to note that sensor size is more important than megapixel count when rating image quality. Unfortunately, virtually all smartphones, point and shoot cameras and long zoom compacts have very small sensors. If you want really high quality images that can be cropped and enlarged you should consider the new category of Interchangeable Lens Compacts or Consumer DSLRs with large sensors. And remember if you want a ton of great information on cameras, make sure you check out - everything you need to know about every available camera including prices, reviews and detailed specs.  

Looking for great and free apps? (5/14)

Finding good apps can be a daunting task with millions available. To help you sort through this overwhelming selection, you should visit - a web site that lets you filter and search for Apple, Android and Windows apps by category, price and other criteria.
There are even apps that let you search for apps. One of my favorites for Apple apps is AppsGoneFree; every day it lists 5-7 apps that are free for a short time. I check it frequently and have found many great bargains.

Microsoft Office now on the iPad (4/14)

The long awaited announcement last week that Microsoft Office can now run on the iPad is a very big deal. Many people would not use an iPad in the past because Word, Excel and Powerpoint were not available - now they are. I've had the weekend to play with all three apps and I am definitely impressed. Considering this is Microsoft's first attempt at a tablet based version of Office they did an outstanding job.

The apps are intuitive, easy to use and well-designed to work on a small screen. I spent most of the time with Powerpoint and found it comparable to Apple's Keynote in ease of use. Based strictly on features, I'd find it difficult to recommend one suite over the other. Of course most comparisons aren't or shouldn't be based strictly on features. Price is always a factor and this is the first big concern with the new Microsoft products. NOTE - If you're just trying to understand this subject, Apple has long had three desktop competitors to MS Office - Keynote (presentations), Pages (word processing) and Numbers (spreadsheets). They have companion iPad apps also.
So what's the price issue?
Many people are disturbed to learn that the "free" Microsoft iPad Office suite requires a $100 per year subscription to Office 365. The pricing structure is complex - students get a much lower rate, for example. The other surprise is that the mobile version is not identical to the desktop version. Microsoft had no choice but to do a from the ground up rewrite because, as I've said frequently in the past, Office software was designed for a large screen and doesn't work well on any ten inch device. If you don't believe this, just go to and run Windows/Office on your iPad or other tablet using a remote server/PC. This is straight forward and will work great if you have fingers the size of toothpicks. The following links will help you understand the various price plans for the new iPad Office - and A lower priced personal version is coming in the spring.
Why on the iPad and not Android?
Because Microsoft put Office on the iPad before Android tablets, they must feel Google is the real enemy. Numerous moves we've seen in the mobile field recently are all about choosing sides in what is likely to be a bloody battle for mobile dominance for at least the next five years.

If you're a dedicated Windows user and you choose to use the latest and greatest Office 365 suite, the iPad MS Office apps might just be what you're looking for since you've already paid for the contract. If you're slightly less committed to Windows, you might prefer Apple's iWork version since either approach requires changing software but the Apple apps don't require a contract. Both the Microsoft Office and Apple iWork apps work with standard office files - doc, ppt, xls. Of the three Office apps, I've always felt spreadsheets were the hardest to convert to the small screen. Excel is a beautiful and powerful program and the PC/Mac versions will be king of the hill for years to come. 

iDraw - a great iPad drawing app (3/14)

I've said before (if you can't find a good source, you can always quote yourself) drawing apps are a great use for tablets and  iDraw is one of the most powerful available. If a youngster you know is a budding designer and tablet lover, an app like iDraw or PadCad, which I've discussed previously, would be great learning tools. No, they're not free but at $15 for PadCad and $9 for iDraw they are certainly affordable for anyone but the stingiest user.

iDraw is my favorite. When PC software once cost hundreds of dollars, it's amazing that some people now complain about spending $2 on a good or great app. Click on the image above to read more about iDraw - worth every penny for the right user. Remember Facebook just paid $19 billion for one app!

First it was Bitcoins - now it's Beacons (3/14)

Beacons are small radio transmitters being installed by stores to communicate with your smartphone as you stroll by or drop in - sale on tooth paste in aisle 5! They  were all around Times Square on Super Bowl weekend and will be in 20 major league ball parks on opening day. Most of the talk will refer to Apple's iBeacon version since they are first out of the gate but the technology is not Apple specific. 

Looking for a top notch windows 8 tablet/laptop?

Today in Tech (3/14) - The Lenovo Yoga 2 might be the place to start (and maybe finish) your search.
Here's a thorough review.

There is a range of prices and remember these are full Windows computers.
At the $500 low end the 11.6" screen size might be limiting for Windows/Office. The pro version has a 13.3 inch screen and costs about $1,200.
Big things coming for Apple in 2014
Apple's been taking heat for not inventing anything new but 2014 could change that. Right now there are four likely major announcements in the works.
Apple TV - likely what Steve Jobs called a "hobby" may  be upgraded - ten million units were sold last year. The evolution of "smart TV" has been an agonizingly slow process. Apple, Roku and Google Chromecast are 1, 2 and 3 in sales right now.
IWatch - Samsung's second version just announced, others already out.
Larger iPhone - Big  phones and phablets are selling like hotcakes and Apple is seriously behind in this arena.
iPhone/auto integration - Building sophisticated computing into a car doesn't make sense - cars last a long time so using a smartphone as the replaceable "brains" of the automobile is a better deal.
Samsung finally did it
I've been talking about a new operating system from Samsung to compete with Android and it's here. The first Samsung smartwatch used Android; version 2 announced last week runs on Tizen.
And Nokia  too
Just as the deal by Microsoft to purchase Nokia was being concluded - so Nokia could incorporate the Microsoft Windows OS in its latest phones - Nokia announced new phones - running Android! Ohh, that's gotta' hurt.