Midomi App Review

author | September 21, 2008

midomi-iphone-icon-masked-100 Here’s a nifty app for the iPhone that’s actually handy, useful and does what it claims to do.  I’m not a music snob, though I do like music.  With kids, work and all the rest of life flowing around, I don’t get as much time as I used to to sit back, relax and enjoy some music (and an adult beverage).

That also means, I don’t have the time to stay abreast of who’s who in music, or what’s supposed to be good or not, or even what is good.  I just end up happening across tunes  I like, and then struggling to figure out what the song was and who’s performing it.  Read on for more…

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iPhone 3G: Second Impressions

author | September 20, 2008

apple-iphone-3g-2After continuing to live with an iPhone in the house, we’ve gotten a bit more used to (and sometimes frustrated) with some features and more general comparisons to other devices, such as Windows Mobile (WM).  As we continue using the iPhone for the wife, here’s some of my ‘second’ impressions, again provided in random order…

  • Expandability:  So on the WM device platform, there’s lots of third-party and freeware programs you can load up (or bog down) your device with.  For the iPhone, they have the App Store.  It’s a fairly new development, so time will have to tell just how even the playing field becomes with third-party offerings.  So far, the App Store seems to be filled with lots of cheap (in two ways – price and quality) apps that have been hastily created to either do something cool, yet are useless – or to do something useful, yet are unrefined and incomplete.
  • App Store:  So more specifically on the whole App Store thing – I like the idea a lot.  It’s nice to have a single place for finding and downloading add-in applications versus crawling the Internet for WM-related software.   As mentioned above, there’s a lot of junk out there App-wise in the store.  While that’s to be expected, there’s no real option for trial software.  Sure, the prices tend to be small at under $4 for many of the apps, but still – spending 1-4 bucks a pop for junk software you delete isn’t a path to financial intelligence. Some 30-day trial option for all the app options would really help you find the best app to fit your needs, and ensure your supporting good development – not bad.  The App Store integration onto the iPhone itself is nice – letting you browse and download the apps directly from the phone.  That way you can realize even faster that you just flushed another $1.99 down the toilet… Read more »

iPhone 3G: First Impressions

author | September 7, 2008

apple-iphone-3g-2Okay, so we fell for the hype a bit.  I got the wife an iPhone 3G as a gift.  It’s cool, it has some nifty features, it’s got a pretty decent price tag – and I’d been wanting to check one of these things out for a while – so it had all the makings of a great gift.  I come from a long line of Windows Mobile devices and phones, so I know what it’s like to have a bevy of features in the palm of your hand.  So after having it for a couple weeks now, is the iPhone really any better than all those other toys I’ve had?

Well – the first thing I noticed was it seems to just work…  Okay, Apple seems to have some reputation built up about it’s OS being reliable, easy and intuitive.  Well, I’m into technology, so those things have never really interested me much – haha.  I haven’t had a lot of exposure to Macs, OS X or even iPods – sticking more to Windows and Linux distributions, so the iPhone is really my first deep dive into the whole Apple ‘thing’.  Well, I can attest that the iPhone is easy to use and intuitive.  Reliable?  Well… not so much – we’ve already had a hang or two that required a reboot, and a time where the push mail just went to lunch, didn’t get any mail anymore, and didn’t tell you it wasn’t connecting – so it doesn’t seem much better in reliability to any of my WM stuff.

On the easy side:  it was setup to get onto the Internet and get Yahoo mail via push in a blink of the eye.  Oh, and no messing about with editing network connection configurations or anything, changing where to store attachments, etc. etc.  It just worked and she was happy immediately.  So that’s not that much of a big deal, what about other stuff, you say…

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author | July 6, 2008

So here’s something nifty in development!  Say you’re the type of guy (or gal) that just loves to build their own computer AND you’re also the type of guy (or gal) that really, really wants it to run a Mac OS.  Well, in the past that guy (or gal) was just SOL.  Now there’s a nifty little piece of hardware that you slap onto the internal USB header of your motherboard (provided it’s on the very short supported list), and then Voila! – you can just pop in a copy of OS X and install.

Just imagine – someday we can all live in a world where a man is free to choose his hardware and his OS!  haha

:: EFIX ::

Lego Indiana Jones

author | July 3, 2008

Now that we’ve got the HTPC hooked up with a way to play games from the comfort of the couch… We’ve just got to have something to play on it, right?  Enter Lego Indiana Jones.  Sure, there’s probably ‘cooler’ games out there and all, but for two middle-aged adults hanging out on the couch and playing video games on the computer while the kids are asleep, it doesn’t really take much.

However, that’s really selling this game short.  This game is fun.  I mean, really fun!  For those of us who watched and loved the original Indiana Jones movies (okay, let’s be honest, no one liked the Temple of Doom) – it’s an enjoyable trip down memory lane.  Imagine a movie made purely with Lego characters, and then imagine you get to control those Lego characters.  Okay – if the movie you happened to imagine was an Indiana Jones movie, then… you’ve pretty much got a good picture of what the game is.

How does it play?

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Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows

author | June 28, 2008

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for WindowsSo maybe I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to computer gaming.  Okay, I am way behind the times – but I have an excuse that I’ve got two small kids.  Can’t say I’m too anxious to see them spend their days in front of a computer or the TV playing games all day – they need to be outside, running around and getting exercise!

Now for us adults, however, things are a bit different.  Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with us entering a comatose state in front of the computer playing games until the wee hours of the morning.  Well – when you have the time and can stay awake after running after kids all day, that is.

But being hunched over a laptop alone isn’t much fun, especially when your back hurts from being hunched over a laptop all day at work.  There’s got to be something better.  Ah, what about this nice Vista home theater PC I recently built?  Maybe that could do the trick…  but, how to play a game on that?!  I don’t want to try and use some keyboard and mouse from the couch.  Apparently, some smart people solved this issue many years ago by inventing things called video game consoles.  These things came with an ingenious method of playing games called a gamepad.  Over many, many years of grueling research and development, they managed to invent some of these gamepads that could work without wires.  Wow!  Now we’re on to something that just might solve the problem – but this isn’t a game console made just for using a gamepad, it’s a full fledged computer.  How good could one of those wireless gamepads really work on this?

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WorldWide Telescope

author | June 19, 2008

Dude…  This is cool.  Sure – there’s other stuff you can get for this, like things you pay for (like Starry Night or RedShift) – or you can also use Google Sky.  It’s from Microsoft, but don’t hold that against it; it’s pretty darn sweet for free and it’s better and has more features than Google Sky.

Beyond just being a pretty cool and easy to use free planetarium software, it can control your telescope (if you have one, and live somewhere it’s nice and dark), but some of the guided tours are actually informative and interesting.  For those that watch shows like The Universe, you might even recognize some of the folks that have contributed some guided tours.

Check it out at the link below!

WorldWide Telescope

At last – Cheap and Good Cables!!

author | June 8, 2008

In case you haven’t noticed, the price of some cables – especially those for home theater hookups – are just getting downright insane.  You walk into your local ‘big box retailer’ and even their cheapest, shortest HDMI cable is going for over $50.  Ouch!

Come on, you say to yourself, this is just some pieces of copper with some connections on each end.  Well, you’re right.  Back in the day of analog signals, quality cables could actually make a big difference by helping to avoid signal noise and drop-off.  Well, we’re in the digital age now (some of us are, anyway) and now these cables are just expected to carry 1′s and 0′s across the wire to their destination.  Point being, if the digital information gets there, it gets there – plain and simple.

So the days of ‘premium’ cabling needs are behind us, but the cable manufacturers haven’t bothered to let you in on the secret.  Cable makers like Monster Cable are still there to happily take away your money.  I’ve come across an excellent online source for discriminating cable buyers that prefer to keep money in their wallet, instead of wasted…

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DirecTV: HD Tivo vs Plus HD DVR

author | June 6, 2008

Well, I’ve finally given up the HD Tivo integrated DirecTV receiver (HR10-250) to move on to DirecTV’s ‘Plus HD DVR’ receiver (HR21-700) so I can get all those HD channels they’ve been bragging about.  Why did I have to give up the Tivo to get them?  Well, two reasons:

  1. The new HD channels are MPEG4 encoded.  The Tivo-based receiver supports MPEG2 only and it can’t be upgraded to support the MPEG4 compression.
  2. DirecTV and Tivo aren’t really friends anymore.  I wish they were, because I’m a fan of the Tivo interface – and the rest of the family sure likes it too.  But, waiting for them to kiss and make up could take… well, long enough that television technology will most likely change a few more times at least!

So to get the latest technology and the latest HD channels from DirecTV, I have had to say goodbye to Tivo.  Did I want to?  Nope.  But here’s to making the best of the situation.  So now that I’ve switched and been up and running on the new box for a week, how does the DirecTV DVR compare to the Tivo-based service?  Well, here’s my take:

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Why does Vista get such a bad rap??

author | May 31, 2008

Windows Vista

So those of you that know me know that I’m a bit of a techie.  While I’ve always been a ‘PC’ user, and a ‘Microsoft’ user, I don’t think of myself as a fanboy of either.  I sure wouldn’t turn down a nice MacBook and copy of Aperture if it happened to drop in my lap – that’s for sure!  I’d even really suggest someone seriously consider getting a mac if they’re looking for a new computer.

I even get a chuckle out of those Mac vs. PC commercials.  But I’m having a hard time understanding just why Vista is getting such a bad response from everyone – not just those silly commercials.  I didn’t jump right out and adopt Vista right away – so I’m not one of those ‘Vista is the best thing ever’ guys.  I kept using XP Pro and XP Media Center Edition until recently.  Why?  Well, the easiest explanation is they worked just fine.  I’ve gotten a bit older, and I’m not really up for changing everything just because there’s something new there anymore.  However, the time has finally come, and I’ve switched to Vista using the Dell upgrade to my laptop, and used it to build my new home theater PC (HTPC).

So have I had problems by the boatload, as would be suggested by all the stories and ads?  Nope.  How many issues have I had?  Well, zero to be precise.  Ah – but I’m a techie, so I know how to fix everything myself and therefore wouldn’t have any problems.  Well, that may be true – but I’ve been a manager for a while now, so I’m not quite as techie as I used to be.   But being absolutely honest, I haven’t done a lick of fine-tuning or tweaking to either system.  They just work.  Now, granted – there’s a few things I’ve run into…

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