Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mind Control Technology

Well it looks like I have my answer. According to IBM, mind control technology is the next big thing. Usable mind control technology may allow us to place a phone call or turn on the lights within 5 years. If this is accurate, this truly is a massive paradigm shift with how we interact with technology and the world in general.

By 2017, like all technology, the EPOC or other similar technologies will probably get smaller. So I can imagine it will have completely dry sensors, and I'd be wearing it all the time, perhaps embedded into a baseball cap, and with a finer range of thought patterns detected and connected directly to my mobile phone - allowing me to interact with the world just by thinking particular thoughts. In doing this I could wonder what the traffic will be like on the way home and this information would pop up in front of me. via dvice.com

However, I think that artificial intelligence must also improve dramatically within the next 5 years as well in order to take advantage of these new ways of interacting with technology. AI like apple's siri technology is very useful and impressive for a very limited set of tasks. I'm sure it will continue to get better and it show's great potential. But for a truly revolutionary "personal assistant" technology, there is significant work that must be done in the interpretation of these interactions so that more complex tasks can be performed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Next Big Thing

I am at a point where I feel as though I have no gadgets left to buy. Sure, I don't have every smartphone available, but I do have a great smartphone and all in all the primary features are the same on all the great smartphones. The only difference is in the execution at this point. Not a small point, but one I believe to be generally accurate.

There are incremental improvements every year, but I can't think of an absolutely, blow-me away, innovative device since the iphone. The iPad was a great invention, but the paradigm for the iPad had already been set by the iPhone.

Thats not to say that I am not greatly enjoying the gadgets that I own. I just don't know whats next. Is it TV, voice control, robotics and AI?

If I am wrong, let me know, but I believe that we are in a tech gadget lull here.

My prediction is that AI will be the next big thing. Apple took a stab at this with the Siri personal assistant built into the latest iphone 4S. Its cool, and can be useful, but it has a long way to go before it truly becomes a significant life changer.

Xbox's kinect system is already integrating voice control systemwide in the latest xbox fall update. Its done well, but I do find that if there is background noise the system kind of breaks down and doesn't hear me well. I've heard rumors that Apple may add Siri support to the apple tv, which is cool, but again I can foresee the same problem occurring in a noisy room.

Google's car that automatically drives itself looks promising, but I believe it will be a very long time before I find this technology in my own vehicle.

A truly useful consumer combination of robotics and AI still appears to be many years away.

So I'll continue to write about the incremental improvements in our current technological paradigms. But I'm getting impatient for something more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Delete All Downloaded Music from iCloud on your iPhone or iPod Touch

Apple's new iTunes match service allows you to provide a matching song in the cloud for every song in your itunes library. It costs $25 a year and gives you a complete backup for your entire music library. 

When you turn on iTunes match on your iphone, you can see every song in your iCloud library in your iphone, ipad, or ipod touch music app. You can then either stream or download the music onto your idevice. Its a great way to have instant access to your entire music library without having to constantly resync new music onto your iphone when you want it. 

I've noticed, however, that I end up downloading songs that I listen to frequently to avoid using extra data. Eventually, those downloaded songs begin to take up a lot of space on your iphone, and it can be difficult to find and delete downloaded songs because they are mixed up with icloud songs. 

Here's an easy way I found to show only songs that you have downloaded onto your iphone. In settings, choose music, then turn off "show all music." When you reopen your music app, you will only see songs that you have downloaded into your iphones memory. You can then select either songs, or albums, and swipe your finger left to right to delete those from your hard drive. This will clear up your iphone's memory to use for additional storage. 

You can then go back into settings and turn on "show all music" to see your entire iCloud library again. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

iTunes match released to the Public

iTunes match has been officially released, allowing you to store up to 25,000 iTunes tracks in the cloud and stream or download instantly to iTunes or your iOS devices. The service costs $25 a year and works as advertised. I have been testing it for weeks. The only glitch I sometimes see is that the music does not always match the song title and album art listed when I shuffle all songs.

Reports are out that the servers are busy and not everyone is able to sign up right now. My advice, wait a few more days and save yourself the hassle of dealing with overloaded servers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Problem With the Kindle Fire

I have yet to use the Kindle Fire, (affiliate link) but it honestly looks like an interesting tablet computer. I have been using an iPad 2 since March, and it quickly became my primary internet device in the house....that is until my daughter claimed it as her personal movie watching device. The iPad has proven to be a great media and internet device for use around the house, and the iPad has even become a pretty good content creation device too for the creation of music, video, and photos. In fact, here is a clip of Moe doing a live song using nothing but the iPad. Pretty cool.

Now, the Kindle Fire will not launch with anywhere near the app selection of the iPad. They recently announced that they will launch with some big ones...Hulu Plus, ESPN Scorecenter, Pandora, Angry Birds...etc. But the iPad has a massive library of 100,000 plus apps to chose from and is considerable more mature than the Kindle "android" app store. I recently read that the Kindle fire is projected to sell 5 million units in the 4th quarter which is respectable, and certainly the most formidable competitor to the iPad so far. This will certainly draw in more developers to create apps over time, but how many is yet to be seen.

The Kindle Fire is a smaller device than the iPad and has a less "high-end" look and feel to it from reports that I have heard. Think of it as a budget tablet. The Kia of tablet computers. Nothing wrong with that, if thats what you are looking for.

The advantage that the Kindle has over other non-iPad tablets is access to Amazon's excellent content library. This is where other iPad competitors have failed. Amazon sells digital books, music, and video. The kindle book store is the best digital bookstore in the world. Plus, an Amazon Prime subscription for $79 annually gives you access to a Netflix like library of unlimited movie and tv show streaming. Its a good price and it also gives you access to free second day shipping and 1 kindle "loaner" book a month at no extra charge.

But here is the problem, the Amazon Kindle Fire locks you in to their content library just like Apple does with the itunes library. Amazon videos need to be played through an Amazon authorized video player. Kindle books can only be read on a kindle device or kindle app. Mp3's are DRM free, but so are Itunes music purchases as well these days.......Its the same strategy that Apple has used for the iPad.

Here is the question then, who would you rather be locked in to, Amazon, or Apple?  Its an interesting question. One could argue that Amazon is a bit more open than Apple. You can run a Kindle app on apple devices, but you can run ibooks on android devices. Video however, is stuck on a Amazon authorized app, just like itunes movies are stuck in the itunes universe. Same goes for app investments too. Once you start building up these libraries, its touch to switch.

I am fully immersed in the itunes universe because of the library of videos and apps that I have built up. Apple's itunes store is very mature and has an excellent selection of content. I also prefer the design and elegance of apple devices. The $199 price tag of the kindle fire is enticing, but take a while and think through all of the implications of that decision before you make a decision. If you are already highly invested in Apple, the $199 price may not be enough to lure you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Amazon Best Books of 2011

Amazon has released its list of the best books Amazon Best Books of 2011. (affiliate link)

Highlights include the new Steve Jobs bio from Walter Isaacson, which I am almost finished reading, and Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts.

I love lists like this because it gives me a nice new reading list of books to choose from.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ebook Readers - Time to Trade-In your Paper Books

If you haven't yet made the jump to ebooks, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why you should. Ebooks, or electronic books, are digital copies of books that can be read on a variety of devices. You can purchase ebooks through companies like Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google, and there are also many free ebooks that you can download as well.

Ebooks give you the ability to literally carry thousands of books with you on one device. You can also instantly purchase and download from a library of over 800,000 books. The combination of instant access and a digital library that can be carried anywhere gives ebooks a distinct advantage over traditional paper books. And e-ink ebook readers provide a technology that imitates the look of paper on an electronic device. Its very simple to purchase a new book right from the device. No computer needed.

Another advantage of ebooks is that you can access your library from multiple devices. You could start reading on your kindle e-ink reader, read a few pages later on your iphone, read a few more pages on your laptop, and then pick back up on your ereader later in the day. Kindle keeps all of the devices synced up so that your device always starts on the last page where you left off.

I personally prefer the kindle system because they have a huge selection of books and you can access your library on many different devices. For pure reading, the kindle e-ink reader is the best experience because its the closest to reading on paper. There is no backlit lcd so it seems to be easier on the eyes for extended reading sessions. The only disadvantage to this device is that you do need a booklight for reading in the dark.

However,  because I am so busy and always on the go, I find myself reading more and more on my kindle iphone app. I always have my phone with me, and the iphone has a very high quality retina display that produces extremely clear text. It was a little small at first, but text size is adjustable. I've gotten so used to it that I frequently read entire books on my iphone.

If you want a multi-purpose e-reader, you will want to look at either the iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire (affiliate link), or a barnes and noble Nook Tablet. These devices are great for reading, but they also are full-fledged multi-media devices that allow you to watch movies, listen to music, play games, and surf the web.

The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, are low-prices at $199 and $250 respectively. They are a great bargain. However, they are smaller than the ipad at 7" and they do not have the massive app store that the ipad has for additional functionality. The ipad has a 9.7" display, and has its own ibooks bookstore as well as specific apps that give you access to the kindle and barnes and noble bookstore.

The cheapest entry point is the new $79 kindle with special offers (affiliate link). Its an e-ink reader that gives you access to the kindle bookstore for a great price. The special offers reduce the price by adding advertising to the kindle screensaver when you are not reading, so it shouldn't be intrusive. Plus, you can pay additional money and remove the ads at any time.

Anyway you go, these are all very good devices and should get you up and reading in no time. After a while, you may wonder if you'll ever buy a paper book again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Cloud: Where does your Music Belong?

Backing up your music collection in 2011 is easier than ever. Whether you backup your music in the cloud or on a hard drive, a music archive is easy and inexpensive and its an absolute must if you have a large music collection.

Here is my roundup of the current options: 

1. External Hard Drive - This one is pretty straightforward. Buy a cheap backup harddrive (amazon affiliate link) and copy your music files. If you are a mac user, I recommend setting-up time machine, which will automatically back up your music files as well as the entire contents of your computer hard drive. 

For windows users, there are a number of backup software options available, including the built-in windows backup program. You can also just copy and paste your music folder directly into your external hard drive. 

One recommendation - you may not want to leave your external hard drive plugged in at all times. If you have a massive power surge at your home, you could end up with a fried computer and a damaged external hard drive - and lose your entire collection. 

2. Google Music - Music by Google is still in its beta, but for now you can back up your entire music collection at no upfront cost. If you get an invite, you can use the Google music manager to upload your entire music library. 

The downside is that, depending on the size of your music collection, the process can take days or even weeks. My library took me 7 days to upload. Once uploaded, google offers a very nice web interface to stream your library. They also have a pretty good mobile app to stream your library on the go. Android users have the advantage of a Google music app to access their collection. 

The other questionable feature is the inability to download music that you have uploaded to your library. The only current option to access your music is through streaming via google. 

3. Amazon Cloud Player - Amazon offers a similar program as Google for backing up your music in the cloud. You can use Amazon's mp3 uploader to upload your entire collection. Again, this process can take a week or more to complete, depending on the size of your library. 

Amazon does give you the ability to download your music files onto your hard drive and then load onto an mp3 player. They also have a nice web interface for streaming songs and an Android app. However, they currently do not offer a mobile web app for iphone users. 

Amazon is currently offerring unlimited space for music for $20 a year plus an additional 20GB of general cloud storage included. However, they advertise these costs as a limited offer. 

Another cool feature is that music purchased via the Amazon mp3 store is automatically and instantly available in the cloud. 

4. Itunes Match - Itunes match is Apple's answer to cloud music storage. Its a different take on music backup in that it scans your music collection and provides a matching itunes AAC 256kbps file for every song that is available in the itunes library. This drastically cuts down the time it takes to "upload" your music collection. If a song in your library does not contain a matching itunes file, then Apple will upload your own digital copy into the cloud. For me, this was about 200 songs to upload instead of 8,000 songs through Google and Amazon. Plus, any song that you purchased via itunes is already available for you in the cloud as a backup. 

Itunes match can sync with your IOS devices so that you have instant access to your entire library at all times from your iphone, ipod touch, ipad, and itunes software. Music can be either streamed or instantly downloaded to your ios device for playback. 

The service costs $25 a year and is scheduled to launch in the near future. 

Whatever service you choose, I would recommend a combination of an external hard drive and cloud storage. I have tried all of these services so I currently have 3 cloud backups plus an external hard drive backup of my music collection. At this point, it would take a pretty massive disaster for me to lose access to my collection. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to Access your Desktop From Anywhere

Go To My PC Remote Desktop access is a really nice service that allows you to access your desktop from any computer with an internet connection. Its easy to install on your home computer and easy to access from a remote computer.

Once you have access, you will be viewing your home desktop as if you were siting right in front of it. This in and of itself is useful, but it also is a nice substitute for a VPN. I use it at the office to gain access to my work computer from home. I can then access all of the software and network resources that I need from anywhere.

Speed is pretty good, although I wouldn't try to use it for gaming or any processor intensive work.

There is also an iPad tablet out as well that allows you to view your desktop remotely via the iPad.

Very nice service and I highly recommend it.

Gmail App

The gmail app for apple's iphone had a very public failure yesterday. It was released on the app store very briefly, then pulled because of serious bugs in the software.

There was quite a bit of hype leading up to the release of the gmail app, but apparently the app is nothing more than the standard gmail web app, which is quite good, wrapped in an iphone app skin with notification capabilities.

Now, I love gmail, but the only time I really use the gmail app is for searching old emails. For day to day checking and sending of mobile emails, iphone's mail app works just fine. And honestly, if all you need is push notifications, its easy to set-up gmail via exchange activesync and get push capabilities.

So its back to the drawing board for google with no clear timeline for how long it will take to get the app back up on the app store. In the meantime, use the webapp at mail.gmail.com if the iphone mail app isn't sufficient for you.

Ask Siri

Siri is Apple's new "personal assistant" technology built into the new iPhone 4S. Its pretty impressive technology and very useful for a number of tasks. Here are are few of the things that I have found useful to say to Siri so far:

- "Text Jane and ask her if the dishwasher has already been run"
- "Schedule a dentist appoint for 10:30am on November 16th.
- "Is is going to rain today"
- "Read my new messages"
- "Play my toddler playlist"
- "Remind me to call my mom tonight"
- "Set a timer for 3 minutes"

I am loving the calendar function because it really is quicker. Texts are nice especially in the car. And the reminder function has saved me multiple times already.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Access Gmail from Any Device

Gmail has certainly become the finest free web-based email program available, easily surpassing hotmail and yahoo with features and usability.

Today gmail released a significant update to its gmail web interface with an entirely new user interface. Its a cleaned up design with streamlined conversations, elastic density, smarter navigation, better search and new hd themes.

But you don't have to use the gmail web interface to use gmail. Gmail is accessible from a variety of devices including smartphones and tablets, as well as through traditional email clients on a pc using programs like microsoft outlook.

Here is a link for google for setting up gmail with a variety of email clients including: outlook, apple mail, windows mail and thunderbird.

Setting up gmail on the iphone is easy. Just go to settings, mail, and touch add account. Then select gmail and enter your username and password. You will now be able to send and receive gmail email's from your iphone mail app.

There is also a great gmail mobile app at mail.gmail.com using your mobile browser.

Monday, October 31, 2011

iPhone 4s gets over 9mbps on At&t!

The iPhone 4s has an upgraded "4g" radio that gets 4g like speeds on at&t's network. I've pasted a speed test below and I was able to get over 9mbps download and 1mbps upload in the Cincinnati area. I've pasted a screenshot.

This may not be true 4g but it is a definite upgrade over the 3G in the iPhone 4. Something to consider depending on the quality of at&t's network in your area.

iPad 3 - Retina Display?

I'm looking forward to the iPad 3. Mostly because my 2-year old daughter has commandeered my iPad 2 and I'm back to using my iPhone 4GS for all of my news reading.

But I'm also looking forward to the possibility of an upgraded iPad display. 9to5mac.com is quoting a CNET report that a 2048×1536 display may be in the works. The only problem is producing these displays at a high enough volume to keep up with iPad sales. 

Now, for the most part, I'm satisfied with the display in the iPad 2. But when I go back and forth from the iphone to the iPad, I can definitely discern the difference. For video, its not as noticeable. But for text I can easily see pixels in the iPad. Text on the iphone is crystal clear. 

Its not a deal breaker but I've certainly gotten spoiled by the retina display. Lets hope they can ramp up production for a possible March launch of the iPad 3. 

Smart Phone Addiction

Interesting story from CNN on smartphone addictions. Guilty as charged.

Do these apply to you?

-- The urge to pull out a cellphone even when someone you're with is in the midst of a conversation with you.
-- Texting even while your child is telling you about his or her day at school, and realizing later that you can't remember the details of what your son or daughter has said to you.
-- Having the vague feeling that something hasn't really happened until you post it to Facebook or Twitter.
-- Feeling isolated and anxious if you are offline for an extended period of time.
-- Noticing that even when your family is all together in one room at home, each person is gazing at his or her own screen and tapping at a miniature keyboard.
I'm not a huge facebook poster but I have definitely pulled out a smart phone in the middle of a conversation with someone, which is admittedly quite rude. 

Sounds like a good idea for a New Years resolution. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

HDMI Cable Rip Off

Don't get ripped off on HDMI Cables

Cnet has a nice article on the difference between expensive and cheap HDMI cables. Bottom line: according to CNET there is no difference. They are all the same.

I have always bought my HDMI cables from Monoprice.com. (FYI, I am not a monoprice.com affiliate) You can get a 6ft cable currently for $3.50. I've bought many of them and they all work great.

HDMI is a digital connection. If you are getting a picture that looks like a quality picture, then you are getting everything that you are supposed to be getting. All of the data is coming through.

Take Cnet's advice and don't get ripped off by spending $85 on an HDMI cable.

How Many Boxes Do You Have Connected to Your TV's?

I love the idea of a simple TV set that has no external boxes connected to it yet gives me access to all of the content that I want to enjoy. Unfortunately, that dream has yet to be fulfilled. Right now there is no easy way to avoid having multiple boxes connected to your television.

Here are my 2 set-ups:

Upstairs TV - Wii, Apple TV, Directv HD-DVR

Downstairs TV - Xbox 360, Directv HD-DVR, Apple TV, Samsung Blu-Ray player

I find myself using Apple TV more and more because of its Netflix access and the ability to access all of my iTunes movies, Tv shows, and music...etc.

In both set-ups, I have all of my devices running through an AV receiver and then running an HDMI cable to the television. It cuts down on some of the clutter, but that still leaves a lot of cables and boxes.

I am constantly on the lookout for a simple solution but I have yet to find one. But as I see potential solutions I will let you know.

Here's a Samsung TV that has built-in Internet that lets you access Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and more. You will still most likely need some sort of cable box so while it cuts down on an internet connected solution like an Apple TV or Roku, its still not a perfect solution. However, it does look like a pretty sweet flat panel TV. Samsung UN55D8000 55-Inch 1080p 240Hz 3D LED HDTV (Silver) - Affiliate Link

Friday, October 28, 2011

iTV - The future of Apple TV?

iTV - Great article from 9to5mac.com speculating on the future apple tv set. Its been widely reported that Steve Jobs claimed to crack the TV issue in conversations with Walter Isaacson that later appeared in the Steve Jobs bio book.

Apple has always considered Apple TV a hobby because of the problems in changing the power structure of the television industry. AppleTV is a great little device but there are huge holes in terms of live TV and sports programming. Until this type of programming is made available, it will be tough to Apple to provide a legitimate contendor to the cable companies.

Yes, you can subscribe to MLB and NHL sports packages and stream live sports via apple TV. But, local blackouts often prevent you from streaming games in your local market even with a season package. Apple's airplay feature also opens a lot of opportunities to stream great programming from your iPad to your appleTv set and watch shows on your big screen. But this adds a level of complexity to watching tv that will be difficult for many people to use regularly.

I am very curious to see how Steve Jobs cracked the TV. I've been wanted to cut the cord for quite a while but my sports addiction has prevented this from being a realistic option.

Nest - My next gadget - Thank you

The father of the ipod, Tony Fadell, announced what will certainly be the next most coveted gadget in my home. Nest.com is now offerring a pre-order for the coolest looking thermostat you have ever seen. It is a learning thermostat that requires no programming. It apparently programs itself. Not only that, you can control it from an iphone from anywhere with an internet connection.

They claim to be able to cut 20-30% of off an average home's energy bill. Pretty impressive. And a good-looking device too. Thank you nest for adding a cool-factor to the dopiest gadget in my home.


Directv iPad App comes aLive

Directv has upgraded its already impressive iPad app to include live TV. There are currently 38 live tv channels available.

I had a chance to test it out and it works well. It integrates into the first page of the main screen of the app so you can scroll through the channels and touch whatever channel you want to view live. Plus, if you flick up on your ipad, whatever you are watching will pop up on your main directv-connected television

However, I would think of this as having an extra tv set with access to your directv channels (although limited to only 38 channels). You can basically use the ipad to carry your tv around the house. Pretty neat.

Quality is pretty good, although not as good as watching it using a directv box.

If you have an internet connected HD-DVR from directv you can also use the app as a very sophisticated remote control. You can set-up favorites, flick and scroll through a guide, and even bring up a mini-remote that mimics the standard directv remote. I like scrolling through the guide for a program without affecting what I am watching on the screen.

For this to work, you need to either run an ethernet cable from your router to your directv box or get a wireless kit that allows your directv box to get online.

The difference between Apple and Android

I was discussing the use of flash in mobile devices with a friend recently and that made me think of a fundamental difference between Apple's IOS and Google's Android.

Apple wants to control and optimize the entire user experience. Flash drains battery and doesn't run well on mobile devices so Apple doesn't allow it on their device. They curate the experience for the user.

Android basically says its your phone, you can do what you want with it. If you want to run your battery down in an hour using flash thats your decision.

Which side you stand on depends a lot on your own personal preferences. Personally, I like having a curated experience. I'm happy to pay Apple to weed out the junk for me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blogger iPhone app

I'm writing this post from the blogger iOS app. It has a very simple, clean interface with the ability to log into your google account and post from all of your blogs.

You can easily take a photo and add it to your post and include location data if your would like.

Not a ton of features but it's a nice simple app for creating quick posts on the go.

Using Evernote to Organize Office Documents

I've been a little Apple heavy with my posts lately so I thought I would shift gears and discuss one of my favorite software programs.......Evernote.

Evernote is a free program note taking program that syncs everything to the cloud. Their slogan is remember everything. Its great for taking notes but it is also good for so much more than that.

My wife uses it to organize recipes. You can easily clip webpages and import them into evernote. Once their they are permanently saved and accessible from multiple devices including smartphones and tablets. You can organize notes in separate notebooks and then tag them to provide even greater accessibility.

You can also store pictures, voice notes, plan trips, scan and organize receipts and much more. I recently used it at work to organize thousands of dimension sheets for industrial products. Rather than looking through a thick folder for a document, we can quickly and easily pull it up within evernote...saving hours of time.  Evernote uses OCR to identify text within your scans so that you can quickly find the document you are looking for.

You can buy a premium service for $5 a month that gives you additional monthly upload capacity and sharing capabilities to selectively share documents with other users.

iTunes Match is Nearly Ready to Launch

I just received an email from Apple stating that iTunes match is reseting the cloud to prepare for the public launch. I have turned off iTunes match on all of my devices and I would suspect that the product will be launching sometime next week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

iphone 4GS Siri and Other Impressions

I've had the iPhone 4GS from day one. Now that I've had it for a while, I thought I'd post a list of impressions. My previous iPhone was the 4G so I'll highlight some of the differences I've noticed.

  • The iPhone 4GS is very fast and I find that their is a noticeable difference compared to the 4G. 
  • Safari is lighting fast. I was shocked at how quickly web pages loaded. 
  • The upgraded camera is a welcome addition. Its a nicer more detailed picture. 
  • I love the image stabilization with the video camera. 
  • Still prefer my Cannon SLR camera for photos and videos whenever possible but the iPhone takes the place of a nice snapshot camera. 
  • AT&T "4G" in the Cincinnati area is pretty good and 5-7 mbps download speeds and 1 mbps upload. 
  • Still getting dropped calls from AT&T but quality seems to be a little better. 
  • Siri is very cool and I'm already using it for reminders, timers and the occasional text message. 
  • Siri has loads of potential and I can see it being extremely useful as it develops more. 

Unless you are a super geek like me, if you have an iPhone 4 you can probably stick with it and be happy. That being said, the 4GS is a really nice phone and I'm definitely enjoying the upgrade. 

iTunes Match is an Instant Hit

I've been able to participate in the developer preview of iTunes match and I can report that after some initial bugs, it seems to be working quote well now.

iTunes match allows you to get a digital copy of your entire music collection stored in the cloud. It costs $25 a year and you can access your entire music collection from iTunes or any IOS device and either download or instantly stream any song.

The initial process can take some time to set-up. A little longer than advertised. Itunes will provide an AAC digital copy for every song in your collection, but if you have music that isn't part of the vast itunes library, you will need to upload your own copy and that can take some time. However, it is much much quicker than competing services from google and amazon that require you to upload everything in your collection, which can take days or weeks depending on the size.

This is most useful if you have a large collection of CD's that you have ripped into itunes or if you have purchased mp3's from other services such as Amazon or Emusic. If you buy from itunes, you will automatically have access to any songs that you have purchased from the itunes store for no additional cost.

I tested this using the new Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto (Amazon Affiliate Link). I purchased the album via the amazon mp3 music store and imported the mp3's into my itunes account. Itunes match picked up on the new music and synced with the server. A few minutes later, the album was available for streaming or download in the music app on my iphone. Pretty cool.

Songs seem to take a few seconds to start streaming so if its something you listen to a lot you may want to just download a copy to your ios device. This is also a good idea if you are on a limited data plan because streaming music will use up your monthly data allowance.

Overall, its a great service at a low cost and I would recommend it to anyone that has a large digital music collection. It provides a great backup option and allows you to easily access your entire collection at any time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Excitement over the iPhone 5

Here is the dilema....I have the iphone 4 on AT&T and I will be eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone 5 when it comes out (likely in October). The problem is, I really want to switch to Verizon's network which would currently require me to pay an early termination fee to AT&T. Although AT&T works for me most of the time, there have been other critical times where it has failed me.

The other factor is whether or not the iPhone 5 will be compatible with the new high-speed LTE network that AT&T and Verizon are both rolling out. Verizon currently has a large lead in LTE coverage but I believe that AT&T LTE will cover my area by the end of the year.

If the iPhone does have LTE, I will be very tempted to upgrade with AT&T for the iPhone 5. However, if it does not, I'm pretty sure I will wait until the LTE iPhone and by that point I should be able to switch to Verizon without penalty.

Here are the rumors I have heard regarding the iPhone 5 - all unconfirmed.

  • Bigger screen
  • Redesigned home button
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • Thinner design
  • Upgraded processor
  • NFC for mobile payment capabilities

The iPhone 5 will also come with the new iOS 5 operating system which is rolling out Apple's massive cloud computing service. 

I'll have more instructional articles on all of these features coming soon. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to take Screenshots in Mac OSX

Mac OSX has a nice built-in option for taking screenshots and turning them into images that you can email, post, etc....

I prefer using the command-shift-4 shortcut which allows you to select the area that you want to turn into an image. Once you select the area of your desktop that you want to capture, the image will appear on your desktop in a png format.

If you just want to save it to your clipboard, hit command-control-shift-4.

How to Set-Up Open DNS

Switching your DNS from your ISP's address to Open DNS can provide a number of useful benefits including:

  • Parental controls
  • A faster and more reliable internet
  • Anti-fraud and phishing protection

Its easy to switch and all you really need to do is sign-up for a free open dns account and then enter the openDNS static dns addresses in your router settings. 

I use a cisco E3000 router and I have attached an image below of where to enter this info. It may vary for your router so you will need to check your router manual for locating these settings. I logged into my cisco router using the address and entering the username admin and the default password of admin. 

The openDNS address numbers are:

Once you have switched, you can add your network within your openDNS account to access advance features such as parental blocking. If you have a dynamic ip network, you may want to download the openDNS client software so that you keep your ip address updated as it changes. 

OpenDNS is free and really provides some great features for your home network. I highly recommend it. 

Stream Sunday Night Football

If you don't have access to a TV, you can stream NFL Sunday Night Football for free. This is available for every Sunday night football game including tonights game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons.

My favorite feature is the ability to select multiple camera angles from which to view the game. Check out the excellent cable cam view to give you the best, "I'm in the game" feeling. Other options include end-zone camera, star camera, sideline camera, and of course the live broadcast feed.

You can also pause, rewind and skip ahead. Its a great feature and honestly it provides a superior experience to television over a good internet connection.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stream NFL Sunday Ticket

I've been wanted to cut the "cord" on my DirectTv service for a while now. The only thing that has held me back is the ability to watch every NFL game live in HD.

Well it looks like that may be starting to change. Starting with the 2011 NFL season, directv is offerring non-subscribers a way to stream the NFL sunday ticket via a playstation 3 for $340 for the season.

Early reports on the service were negative with lots of technical difficulties in the first week. However, I'm sure that these problems will get corrected eventually.

I am already committed to the NFL sunday ticket on directv this year. NFL sunday ticket to-go subscribers have multiple streaming options including the ipad, iphone, pc, and playstation.

However, I will have to consider terminating my DirectTv service next year and sign-up for the streaming only option for the NFL sunday ticket. At this point, I rarely watch DirectTV for anything other than sports and I have always wanted to switch to an a-la-carte option so that I'm not paying every month for channels that I don't use.

If I make the switch, I'll follow-up with a full report and how-to.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stream Thursday night NFL football

NBC sports is offering an online stream of the opening kickoff thursday night football game. Go to NBC sports to find the stream.

Quality is good over a decent broadband connection and the broadcast even let's you switch between different camera angles and includes picture in picture...something you can't do with a standard television broadcast.

The online broadcast will also be available for all NBC Sunday night football games.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Replace your Macbook Pro Optical Drive with an SSD

I recently swapped out my stock macbook hard drive for a 128GB SSD. Wow. What a difference. I don't have any hard numbers to show you other than my own impressions.

  • Mac OSX starts up and shuts down really fast. 
  • Programs like itunes and iPhoto start in about 3 seconds. 
  • Overall performance is zippy. 

The only downside is that its expensive compared to a standard hard drive. I bought my 128GB SSD from OWC for about $200.

However, you can add more storage by removing your optical drive and putting a standard hard drive in its place. I put a 500GB western digital hard drive because it has its own built in shock protection, which you will need because the macbook does not have shock protection in the optical bay.

I store the Mac OS and my applications on the SSD and I have all of my media and documents on the standard hard drive.

I used an optibay enclosure to hold the 500GB hard drive in place. Its a pretty easy system to install but it can be a little tricky removing the old optical drive and securing a couple of the hard-to-get-to screws.

I recommend the program carbon copy to copy your old hard drive onto the new SSD. Easy process.

Please note, these upgrades are not supported by Apple so you are on your own if you decide to do this. MCEtech.com will perform this upgrade for you for a fee if you are willing to send them your MacBook Pro.

Monday, March 7, 2011

iPad 2 Release at Best Buy

The iPad 2 is scheduled to be released at 5pm Friday March 11th at the Apple Store. But I've also seen that Best Buy may also have the ipad 2 available at launch on Friday March 11th. No details are available on the time of the Best Buy launch but I would assume that its also 5pm.

If I had plenty of free time, no job and unlimited funds, it might be fun to camp out at my local Apple store. However, I have none of those so I plan on pre-ordering the iPad 2 on Friday as soon as it becomes available online. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Sync your Google email, Contacts and Calendar on Iphone

Google has a great service called google sync that allows you to instantly sync your gmail email account, google contacts, and calendar on your iphone. Its easy to set-up and keeps all of your information in-sync with the cloud. It even has push support available so that you can receive emails on your iphone as soon as they hit your inbox (although this does tend to drain the battery faster).

I especially enjoy the contacts feature. If I update a contact in gmail it instantly gets update on my iphone an vice versa. I never have to worry about losing contacts again.


iPad 2 available starting March 11

Apple announced the new iPad 2 yesterday with a release date of March 11. The new model is thinner, lighter, faster, and adds a gyroscope and 2 cameras. The cameras allow you to use apples Facetime video call service which allows you to freely call any compatible iphone, ipod touch, and mac computer.

I've waited a year and I will commit to purchasing the iPad 2. I typically avoid 1st designs to give the company an opportunity to work out any kinks and improve the product.

Once I receive the iPad 2 I will do a series of how-to articles for settting up and using the ipad.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slow computer? How to get it running like new again.

Computers tend to slow down after a while for a variety of reasons. There are a lot of products out there that will attempt to speed up your system. However, the best way o get your computer running like new again is to format your hard drive and reinstall windows. Your computer will feel as fast as the day you bought it.

You will need:

Portable hard drive to back up all of your files.

Windows installation disc

Installation discs for any software that you have on your computer such as Microsoft office.

The key to this is to back up all of your files. You will lose everything after you format your hard drive so anything not backed up will be permanently lost. A portable hard drive should allow you to easy back-up all of your photos, music, videos and documents onto a single hard drive.

Once all of your files are backed up, reboot and press f8 until the boot menu appears. Insert your windows installation disc and select boot from disc. You will want to format your main partition then reinstall windows.

Follow these instructions from microsoft to format your partition: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/Create-and-format-a-hard-disk-partition

Next, install a new version of windows. You will need a valid license key to proceed. 

Finally, reinstall all software on your system and put your backed up files back in place.

Your system will be good as new.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How to cut the cord: Getting all of your tv shows online is easier than ever.

I have been toying with the idea of cancelling my cable/satellite service for a while now. Cutting the cord and streaming all or your shows over the Internet is easier than ever. It can save you money, and you don't even need a computer. Fantastic new set-top boxes from apple and roku connect directly to your tv and give you access to huge amounts of content at low prices. Best of all, these boxes cost less than $100.

Cutting the cord essentials:
Apple TV or Roku Box or Xbox 360
Netflix Subscription
Fast broadband Internet connection

The faster your internet connection, the better quality video you will get when streaming. In my area, Roadrunner has up to 15mbps for around $50 a month. This should get you HD video.

A netflix subscription is a must. Netflix offers a huge library of movies and television shows that you can stream for as low as $7.99 a month (way cheaper than cable). The selected is a little dated, but the quality and sheer size of the library is fantastic. Netflix can be streamed on apple tv, roku, and xbox.

If you want newer movies and TV shows, both apple tv and roku have you covered. Apple allows you to rent movies and tv shows directly from the box and pay via your apple account. The TV selection is limited compared to roku, but the price is nice at $.99. Furthermore, if you have a laptop, you can purchase or rent any movie in itunes and stream it to your apple tv. This allows you to have access to a much larger selection of content.

Roku has teamed with Amazon to offer purchase and rental of TV and Movies. The selection is good and HD is available as well. Furthermore, Amazon has recently released its instant watch for prime subscribers for $79 a year. Its a good deal compared to Netflix but the service is new and the selection is limited so far. Roku also gives you access to Hulu via subscription ($7.99 a month), which allows you to watch brand new tv shows.

Xbox 360 has the excellent Zune video service for TV show and movie rental and purchase. The selection is very good and HD movies begin streaming instantly with a good connection. Plus, xbox 360 also gives you the option of playing games, although the price is $100 higher than apple tv. Xbox 360 also has espn3 sports streaming for those of you who are eligible (eligibility is determined by your internet service provider and not everyone will have access to this service).

For myself, the biggest detriment to cutting the cord is live sports. If you are not a huge sports fan, you should be able to cut your cable tv and still have access to your favorite shows at a much lower cost.

For sports fans, I would recommend Roku because you will have access to sports channels to stream live sports from the NBA, NHL, MLB, and UFC. There are restrictions though. MLB blacks out all local games so you will only see road games for your favorite baseball team. Also, the services run around $100 each for the entire season. Its an enticing option but still not a complete sports package. Plus, the NFL currently doesn't have any Internet streaming options that work for these boxes.

For now, I am keeping Directv for the sports, but I will be closely watching as things continue to develop. For some, you can cancel your cable or satellite and have a great experience for a much lower price. For others, you may find that cutting the cord leaves you without access to some of your favorite sports programming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

SonicWall TZ 100 Network Security Appliance Overview

The Sonic Wall TZ 100 with wireless-n is a great product for those looking for a secure firewall/router with great protection and an excellent content filtering service. 

SonicWalls are easy to use and basically outsource the firewall, content filtering, and anti-virus functions to sonic wall. Your unit updates automatically with virtually no maintenance on your part. 

Basic set-up is easy. Sonic wall has an easy to use set-up wizard for setting up your wireless network as well as DHCP server settings. 

Advanced users will be able to take advantage of other features such as setting up a secure VPN. 

The TZ 100 also offers much greater speed than the previous generation TZ 180 and allows you to take full advantage of todays faster broadband speeds up to 25MBPS. Those needing faster connections still may want to jump up to the TZ 200. 

Logging into the sonicwalls default address of begins the set-up process. You can either go through the wizard or skip directly to the main interface. I would recommend starting with the wizard then tweaking later from the main interface. 

Once you are logged in you will see a series of menu items on the left side of the page. Within each menu you will find submenus that allow you to change various settings. Get familiar with this because any time you need to make changes you will log-in here. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amazon Instant Video First Impression

Amazon introduced its new Instant Video service this week which is free to all Amazon Prime members. Its a great added value if you already have Amazon Prime (which gives you free 2-day shipping on most items that Amazon sells). If you don't have prime, its another great reason to sign-up.

Amazon is competing directly with Netflix in the streaming video space. Netflix has become nearly ubiquitous with its streaming video service and has built up a huge libary. Amazon has launched with around 5,000 videos but still has a long way to go to catch up to Netflix in terms of the number of titles.

I've tried out the service on my laptop and it works really well. Quality is good and playback is quick. Amazon seems to have a lot of video from the PBS library which I look forward to exploring.

Clicker.com has a great chart comparing multiple online VOD services.

I'll follow up later with impressions of this service using my Roku box.

Time Warner Wideband Internet 50MB/Sec Set-up

I stream a lot of music and video over the web so I was excited when Time Warner recently announced its new wideband Internet service in the Cincinnati area. Its expensive ($99 a month), but it offers speeds up to 50GB per second, much faster than my Cincinnati Bell Zoomtown DSL. Other available locations around the country include Time Warner Wideband New York City and Time Warner Wideband Texas.

I decided to give it a try and I've been very pleased. Installation was professional, however, I did have to log-into the modem myself to make some changes in order to get the superfast download speeds. This is probably because the service was new and the techs weren't fully up to speed yet.  I consistently get download speeds between 35 and 45mbps and I have no problem downloading high definition video. I often use the excellent video on demand service on my xbox and it works almost flawlessly. HD videos begin streaming instantly and I only occasionally experience any slowdowns.

For $99, I'm not sure how long I will keep the service for, but I can say for sure that it performs as advertised.

Finally, My New Perfect Inexpensive Whole House Streaming Audio and Video System!

I recently completed a new whole house streaming music and audio system and I couldn't be happier. The best part....it wasn't that expensive. Let me show you how I did it.

Here is what you will need (some of this stuff you probably already have):

Apple TV ($99) - 1 for each room
Iphone or Ipod Touch - ($299)
Good wireless router - ($50 and up)
Networked PC or Mac with the ability to run Itunes
Speakers - Powered or Passive with AV Receiver
Television Set

The key to this whole solution is the Apple TV which allows you to stream audio and video from your PC to your TV/Speakers and control everything with an iphone or an ipod touch. Apple TV is inexpensive at $99 and very small, about the size of a hockey puck. You will need 1 in every room that you want to stream audio and/or video. With an ipod touch, you can control what songs or videos are playing in each room as well as the volume. You can even stream Pandora directly from your phone to one of your apple tv's.

Here is my living room setup.

1 Apple Mac Mini MC270LL/A Desktop acting as a server for all of my audio and video with Itunes running.
Pioneer VSX-820-K 5.1 Home Theater Receiver
2 Infinity Primus Two-way 6 1/2-Inch Bookshelf/Satellite Speaker (Black, Each)

1 Samsung LCD TV

I hooked my Apple TV into my receiver using and HDMI cable, then ran an HDMI directly to my LCD TV. Then, I fired up my Apple TV and connected to my local network. You will want to make sure that homesharing is set-up in itunes on your computer. On Apple TV, choose computers then turn on Home Sharing. Enter your apple ID and password. After that, Apple TV will automatically find your itunes library.

Guess what? Thats all there is to it. You now have access to all of the music, videos, and photos that are in your itunes library. There are multiple ways to control your system, but my favorite way is to use the remote app (free) on your iphone or ipod touch. Fire up the app and it will automatically discover your Apple TV. You can use a touchpad remote to navigate directly on your tv, or, you can click done, and navigate your itunes library right on your screen, which is my favorite approach. Just select a song or video and it will almost immediately begin playing on Apple TV. If you just want music, you don't even need to turn your TV on. To play pandora, just fire up the Pandora App and click the icon in the lower right of your screen to start sending the music immediately to your apple TV. Another great option is Netflix. If you are a netflix subscriber you can access the entire Netflix streaming library from your Apple TV.

Very cool, very easy. Add as many Apple TV's as you need and control them all from your iphone or ipod touch. Apple TV has a lot of other great features as well that we'll explore on future posts. Enjoy.