Friday, November 23, 2012

21st Century Reading

A musing note:  Like her father, my 10-year-old niece Marie is a voracious reader who loves Kindle books because you can highlight an unknown word and search Wikipedia or Google. Recently she was reading a "real" book, and found herself tapping an unfamiliar word on the paper page to search Google! 

21st Century technology hasn't advanced THAT far...yet!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Android Malware likes Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich

Android phone users, check your phone bills.  More than one half of all malware detected on user smartphones turned out to be SMS Trojans, i.e. malicious programs that steal money from victims’ mobile accounts by sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why is Microsoft Surface so much worse than Apple's iPad ?

Is this a biased comparison?  YOU have to be the judge, via your own experiences.  ASK for hands-on (not just a demo) before you spend your hard-earned money.   Hands-on is the only way to determine whether Slate's reviewer is correct or incorrect.

My rules for choosing a new Smartphone

Everyone has their own criteria for the perfect smartphone.  For some, a smartphone is a grown-up GameBoy.  For others, it's a portable TV set.  Another group just wants to keep making phone calls.  The high school/college set just wants to send THOUSANDS of text messages.  And then there's the group which wants to leverage these new tools to free themselves from a fixed office, get "out there" but still have all their office functions in today's "post-PC" world.  Especially for THAT group (and possibly for others as well), here are MY rules for choosing a new Smartphone.

Rule #1: Most people can't go wrong with an iPhone (I'm biased -- it's what I use myself).

Rule #2: AVOID any Android phone at a version less than 4.0 (waaaay outdated and may never be upgraded).

Rule #3: If you've still got a Blackberry, choose one of these three -- BB is on its way down.

Rule #4: If you have or are going to get an iPad, then get the iPhone, because they work the same. If you're going to get some other tablet, buy the corresponding phone running the same software.

Rule #5: Smartphone software scales up to run on larger screen tablets, but you end up with 'fuzzy' software, as opposed to a native tablet experience.

Rule #6: When purchasing a tablet, remember that most developers write native tablet (ie large-screen) software for iOS (ie iPhone/iPad) first. Apple has sold 100 MILLION tablets. Other tablets sell based on lower price, but their users' software experience leaves much to be desired.
Choosing a new Smartphone this Fall, but bewildered by the dizzying array of choices ? Here's CNN's comparison take on the three latest models: iPhone5 w/iOS6, Nexus 4 w/Android 4.2, and Nokia 920 with Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 is 5th place, Android has the most users among a variety of manufacturers, and iOS6 has the most users for any single manufacturer. CNN feels Apple's iOS is the easiest to learn, Google's Android offers more flexibility and control, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 is "fun" and MIGHT appeal to Windows 8 users (not many of those yet either).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Windows RT is NOT Windows 8 !

Office 2013 on Windows RT/Surface does NOT include Outlook, Access, or Publisher, and Windows RT won't run most Win32 apps. In February, Microsoft is expected to launch "Surface Pro" which includes full-blown Windows 8 (not RT), full Office compatibility (NOT free, you have to pay for it as usual!), and full Win32 app compatibility.

Feeds and Speeds aren't the ONLY criteria !

Comparing hardware "Feeds and Speeds" (and cost) should NOT be the only criteria buyers use in choosing a device. Microsoft has priced their new 10" 16GB Surface tablet to be the same ($499) as an Apple iPad, or a 16GB Google Nexus 7 costs less ($249 versus $329) than an iPad Mini. Vendors compare hardware specs when that's all they have to compare.

After 35 years in technology, an early rule I learned was to "find the right SOFTWARE, then purchase whatever hardware that software runs on". Occasionally, you have to make choices and trade-offs. For example, Microsoft offers Office 2013 (Word/Excel/Powerpoint only) free with the purchase of their Surface RT tablet (and the Surface's keyboard is $100 more). The tradeoff? While a Surface with Windows RT looks like Windows 8, it won't run ANY older Windows XP/Vista/7 applications, and therefore can't be considered a PC/laptop replacement. If Word/Excel/Powerpoint 2013 is ALL you currently expect to do, then a $599 Surface RT with keyboard is fine.

The bottom line is that the value of Apple's app and content ecosystem is superior to that of its competitors selling less expensive or even comparably-priced devices with their own ecosystems. iPad mini is more than just the sum of its hardware.

Cutting through the Windows 8 confusion

Whether you like it or not, you've GOT to take "the Metro" for Windows 8 ! Hint: Get START8 to ease the pain!

Making sense of the confusing world of Windows 8

Cutting through the Windows 8 confusion...

One BILLION smartphones !!!

Did you know that more than 1 BILLION smartphones were sold in 2011 & 2012? There are now more smartphones than PCs. In our post-PC world, that means businesses need new customer-reaching strategies. Smartphone screens are too small for regular websites. Mobile websites help, but smartphone APPS designed to leverage a smartphone's built-in features (such as email) are the wave of the future. Need an app? How Mobile Apps for Businesses Can Increase Profits

Beware of the "App Trap"

Preparing for Cloudy Days: Beware of the "App Trap" 

Corporate IT has long known that they need testing on various updates to ensure compatibility with the pile of software on each user's machine. The same is coming true in the smartphone & tablet era. For example, Apple's iPhone 5 involves several big changes:
a) A wider 4" screen (1136 vs 960),
b) An operating system upgrade (iOS v5.11 to iOS v6.01),
c) Several "plumbing changes", such as Apple Maps for Google Maps.

Plumbing aside, its the first two which cause concern for "early adopters". I moved from an iPhone4 iOSv5.11 to iPhone5 iOSv6.0, and like many, I have 50-60 apps from a variety of vendors. The built-in Apple apps such as Mail, Contacts, Calendar, all converted on Day 1. But updates continue to flow in for iOS v6.0 or 4" display compatibility. Some of my apps "broke" when I converted. For example, while i-nigma's QR Code scanner still scans and interprets QR-Contact Info codes, it can no longer add them to iOS v6's Contacts app.

Also apparently broken is Buffalo's WebAccess i app for securely remotely accessing data stored on my Buffalo Linkstation Pro. This can happen even if you don't change devices, but just upgrade an older iPhone or iPad to iOS v6.0. App updates WILL come. But here's a case where pioneers (like me) get "arrows in their backs" ! Waiting 30-60 days for all the apps to be updated by their developers can be a good thing. On the other hand, there are also cases where developers upgraded apps from an older iOS v4.2 to iOS v5.0 -- and the apps were no longer compatible with the older iOS ! While newer Apple devices have no problem with the newer iOS, there are always some older devices "left behind", and some of whose apps may no longer work.

Android device owners complain of being orphaned by manufacturers who still release Android v2.3 handsets and tablets, despite the fact that Android v4.1 is out, and v4.2 is in the wings. As a result, most Android apps are written for the "least common denominator" of Android v2.3 on a smart-phone sized screen. Android owners -- heed the experience of iOS users above. Be careful what you wish for -- you may GET IT !

Streaming Video Holiday Edition

Even tho Christmas displays were up in stores BEFORE Halloween, it's still 17 days until Black Friday (and 20 days til Cyber Monday)! A hot item this year will be streaming internet video to your HD-TV, and devices are available from a variety of vendors. New HD-TVs and Blu-Ray players may have wireless internet built-in, handling the most popular subscription streaming from Netflix ($96/yr), Hulu Plus ($120/yr) and Amazon ($80/yr). Streaming internet video still isn't a replacement for cable TV, as current cable TV providers are jealously keeping their channel content away from streaming internet providers. In the stores this year you'll see offerings from Roku (1.2 million sold in 2012), Apple TV (5.3 million sold in 2012), and now Boxee (0.12 million sold in 2012). One of these is perfect for an older (or 2nd TV) which may not have other built-in options. Some (Apple TV) have "pay per view" options, and you'll need a streaming subscription for Netflix. Other options for streaming to your TV are based on gaming systems such as PlayStation or Xbox. In addition to streaming internet content, some also allow streaming your OWN photos and videos to your big-screen TV. I like the free Plex Media Server (available on Windows, Mac, Linux), and the free Plex channel on Roku. You can also stream Plex content to an iPhone or iPad (local or REMOTE) with a $5 Plex app. Here's a solution to viewing your family photos and videos when away from home visiting friends and relatives -- and you don't have to decide ahead of time WHICH of your photos/videos to sync to your smartphone or tablet. Plex will also transcode while streaming ("on the fly") older MPG/AVI video to the newer MP4 format, and maintains your position within a video -- i.e. you can start watching on a TV via Roku, and complete viewing it later on an iPhone or iPad. Just as you use iTunes to "rip" music CDs to digital files (and also looks up album art and track names), Plex will organize your ripped DVDs and Blu-Rays with movie album artwork and film descriptions (separate $35 ripping software is required). If you need help adding these capabilities to your Media Center, just call or write Professional Nerds. Here's a hint: Organize your media FIRST (i.e. make sure all your videos are in either your PICTURES or VIDEOS folder or subfolder), and then you'll be ready to configure Plex and Roku to stream it!