The Price of a Free Kindle

When we moved from Missouri to Colorado, it meant we had to find a new bank, new utility providers, the whole kit ‘n k’boodle.  I chose a bank by seeing which one was closest to the house.  A bank is a bank is a bank, in my experience.

So it turns out this bank (FirstBank) gives free gifts to customers who use direct deposit and a debit card.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t use these two things, and after three months and three direct deposits, I got an email from the bank informing me that I qualified for a free gift.  The gifts were things like an iPod touch, a Kindle, electric coffee mugs, and ski lift tickets.  I decided to go with the Kindle, since I had had to give up my Kindle DX when I left my job in Missouri.

I got it in the mail, unboxed it, plugged it in to charge…and immediately saw an ad for the Twilight books on my Kindle.  Dismayed is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings about this.  Yes, I realize I didn’t pay anything for this Kindle, but couldn’t they have given me one without ads?  I get to see ads instead of the usual screen savers, and there are ads at the bottom of my menu.  The ads disappear when I’m reading, so far, but how long will it be before a software update gives me ads in the middle of the book I’m reading?  Right now the thing is sitting here giving me a T-Mobile ad because I set it down for ten minutes.  Later, there will be another ad, and generally, the ads aren’t even for things I would buy or be interested in.

I’m annoyed.  I suppose if I’d have been buying the Kindle, I’d have to chosen the non-ad-supported one.  But in this case, I didn’t have any choice, so therefore I have no way of turning off the ads.  I guess I’m stuck with them for the life of the device.

I understand it.  I really do.  Companies need to make money, especially in this economy.  But really, ads on my Kindle, which my bank did pay for, after all?  Really?

How utterly rude.  Can’t they make enough off the books I’m buying, and all the other stuff I manage to buy through Amazon in general, to provide a paid-for device that is not laden with ads?

Motorola Atrix 2 Review

Motorola Atrix 2 My Motorola Atrix 2 arrived late Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve been playing with it since then, and I am very happy with my purchase. First a little background, I have been an iPhone user almost since it first came out. Before getting the Atrix 2 I was using the iPhone 4. My iPhone’s was no longer functioning properly due to a broken Home button and I wasn’t willing to pay $199 for the iPhone 4s at this time. After a lot of research I decided to pick up the Motorola Atrix 2. The first thing I noticed was the screen size. If you pick up an iPhone and then a Atrix 2 , the screen on the Atrix 2 (4.3 inches) is the same size as the whole iPhone. It is longer and wider then the iPhone. The border area of the Atrix 2 is much smaller than the iPhone, which gives it even more screen real-estate. Not only is it a big screen but it has a beautiful looking non-PenTile display. Although the Atrix 2 is large, it feels good in my hand. I can hold it in portrait mode in one hand and reach across the screen with my thumb comfortably. I also like the curve smooth edges and the textured back.  Its feels good in my hand. It doesn’t feel quite as substantial as the iPhone, but it doesn’t feel cheap either. I actually like the feel of it better than the iPhone, which now feels rough in my hand. One of the downside of having such a nice screen is it is a battery hog if it is kept at the level that it is set at when you turn the phone on. Yesterday I noticed that my battery was down to 30 percent with less than 6 hours of usage and when I looked at what was using up the battery the display was at 33 percent. Fortunately I was able to find an app called Bataria, which automatically adjust the display and other settings to get better battery usage. With the adjustments made, the battery was still at 60 percent after 6 hours of usage. The other big complaint I have is the lack of storage. It comes with 8 GB of internal storage and a 2 GB Micro SD card, however much of the internal storage is used up by the Web OS. I have already order a new 32 GB Micro SD card from Amazon, after only two days of usage. The UI is easy to understand and use. I have found most of the apps I’ve looked for in the Android market however I have to say that some of the apps I looked at would have never even made it into the iPhone app store. Whether this is a good or bad thing, maybe in the eye of the beholder. There are things that I am still getting use to and don’t know if I am going to use like swype and voice commands, but after only 2 days of usage I am very happy with my purchase. My only other question is will it get Ice Cream Sandwich and when.

Why Google+ is Not the Facebook Killer it Wanted to Be

I just had to block someone else from my Google+ stream.  I think I’ve blocked more than a dozen people in the short few months I’ve been using the service, and I don’t think I have much more than that in my circles all total.

If Google+ was Facebook, this particular person would not have ever ended up in any of my friend’s lists or been allowed to post on my wall or share his political and religious views with me.  If Google+ was Facebook, I’d have gotten a request to allow this person onto my Google+ stream, and I could have chosen to say no.  But Google+ doesn’t give me that option.  Anyone at all can follow me and put me in any circle they’ve created, without asking, without my permission.

This is probably my biggest complaint overall with Google+.  I feel I have a distinct lack of control over who gets to post on my stream, and the only recourse I have is to block them.  I can’t even just kick them out of my stream.  I have to go to the extreme of blocking them completely.  If I’d have just been asked first, I could have decided on a “yes” or “no” to their request to add me without having to have suffered through a dozen or more anti-semitic posts on my stream first.

One of the things I like about Facebook is the ability to keep my wall clean and neat, to only allow a certain type of person to have access to what I say and what I see about them (which in my case is strictly limited to people I’ve actually met in person or have some sort of more-than-passing-acquaintance with).  I am not as likely to see an offensive posting or link since these are people I know and have some connection with.

In the case of Google +, I feel I have no control at all.  I don’t even know how this guy found me, or why he thought I wanted to see what he had to say about people of the Jewish faith.  I have no idea who he is.  Why the heck would Google+ think it was okay for someone like this to have the ability to shove themselves into my online life without any kind of how-do-you-do?

In fact, there is no way (that I’ve found) to keep the random person from just adding you to one of their circles so that you see their posts, however rude and childish.  I have no choice in the matter at all.

Google+ will have its adherents, and it will be popular in its own way, but it will never replace Facebook for me, at least in its current form.  Give me some choice, give me some control about who puts me in their circles, and I might just change my mind.  But for now?  Google+ will remain a fringe product that I use sparingly and only often enough to block more weirdoes from my stream.


Happy New Year from Philips!

Four the twelfth year in a row, Philips Lighting is providing the lighting technology for the Times Square New Years Eve ball.  And for the first year, to help usher in the new era of more efficient lighting choices (since the incandescent light bulb is going to be going the way of the dodo bird), the ball will be completely lit with the newest Philips technology, the AmbientLED.

The AmbientLED is the first LED on the market to effectively replace the 60 watt incandescent bulb.  The AmbientLED can save up to 80% of energy costs associated with lighting.

The Times Square ball is lit with 32,296 individual lights, and because of the increased efficiency of the LED bulbs, can now be lit year round instead of just for a few hours on New Year’s eve.  When the ball drops tomorrow night, Philips Lighting will put another feather in their cap regarding efficient lighting.

AmbientLED lighting from Philips has seen price drops of late; bulbs that originally cost closer to $100 can now be bought for under $25.  Yes, it’s a lot of money for a light bulb, but with its long life and low energy usage, it could pay for itself within a year or two.  The AmbientLED is estimated to last as much as 25 times longer than a regular incandescent bulb.

Happy New Year!

Tablets that Failed in 2011 (But Could Come Back in 2012)

Every year, we get new hype of electronics that are suppose to rock their niche. This year, we saw tablets galore. At CES 2011, I personally saw around 8 tablets that disappeared quicker than a fake Apple store in China.

But those tablets that stayed to try and take the market had to deal with the 500 lb gorilla in iPad2. Some did ok, while others failed miserably. That is what were going to look at today.

Cisco Cius

Cisco Cius

Cisco Cius

Knowing that Cisco didn’t want to deal with the consumer market, they decided to go for the business professional. Why not? It worked for Blackberry all these years. Only problem, it still couldn’t cut it.

Cisco Cius is an Android-based tablet that ran 720p, with Wifi, 4G and Bluetooth. It contains Cisco AppHQ, which is Cisco’s business app store. The seven-inch screen had an optional HD media station that could connect USB peripherals, Ethernet access and a handset, turning the Cius into a landline phone.

There is still hope for the Cius, especially in the office that wants to buy $1000 phones. Maybe in 2-3 years, this device will become more utilized.


HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

There is no way to sugar coat this, so I am going to say it. HP shot themselves in the collective foot. The HP TouchPad started out just fine. Using HP’s acquired Palm software, the WebOS system had a companion phone in the Pre3. The big feature was the ability to transfer items from the Pre3 to the TouchPad by setting the phone on the tablet.

This tablet was prematurely killed when CEO Leo Apotheker stopped production of WebOS devices in October. It also brought us the first viable $99 tablet, as stores were liquidating.

WebOS has been since deemed Open Source. Maybe the TouchPad will make a resurgence as a collectors item. ITM – HP will most likely come out with a Windows 7 tablet in the future.


RIM BlackBerry Playbook

Blackberry Playbook

Blackberry Playbook

RIM has been hurting as of late. Once a staple in business, they seemed to lose a lot of momentum to Apple lately. To really get into the tablet market, they decided to put out the PlayBook, which in all reality, was a pretty impressive tablet.

1 GB of RAM, dual-core 1 GHz processor, Dual HD cameras, and it also worked well with a Blackberry smartphone. The tablet does have a lot of strengths, but the market did not bode well. If it can stand the water, the Playbook might emerge in a year and really show


Motorola Xoom

Motorola XOOM

Motorola XOOM

The Xoomtablet was hit hard on specs vs. iPad2. The Xoom’s 10.1 inch display was deemed “Low end”. Resolution is not the only thing about a display. color depth, brightness and contrast are also big factors.

Still, this tablet, which now can be upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) could make a comeback with Xoom2 and a better display. It also has Bluetooth, micro USB and GPS.

Overall, all four of these tablets are still in production. They have some great features and – if a little work goes into them – they could shake up the tablet market in 2012. HP TouchPad would be the only exception.

With the Kindle Fire and Color Nook out in the tablet market, as well as some low-cost tablets ( like the  $99 MIPS Novo7 tablet that came out), 2012 might have some viable alternatives in the tablet market.

GNC-2011-12-29 #733 Soapbox Time!

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NX80 NoiseHush EarBud Review

I received a pair of NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds to review over a month ago. When I was wearing them I was bragging to my kids how nice they sounded. It was not long after I reviewed them, that the earbuds disappeared from the review box I keep in the office. This afternoon after questioning a certain 15 year old on where they went, the NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds are back in my possession temporarily.

Seeing my daughter has had them for about a month, I asked her what she thought of them, as she was using them with her hand me down iPhone. She said they where really nice, as she as pleading to get them back. I asked her why she liked them, and she said because they sounded really good.  I have to admit for the low price range, these earbuds deliver a very nice dynamic rang especially in low frequencies.

The NX80 NoiseHush Earbuds feature an In-line microphone as well, that is acoustically tuned to filter out external noises. I played with this feature quite a bit in trying to determine how effective this filter is. It does a decent job for the earbud price range.  The earbuds also feature a  control button that is about chest level,  that allows you to switch between calls and your music with just a click.

Overall they are great value for the price @ $19.95.  They come with 4 different sized ear inserts and a nice carrying pouch. My wife now want’s a pair as well, and I have given the review set back to the 15 year old.

I Feel Stupid

Windows Phone 7Over the break, there’s been a bit of discussion by some of the big names regarding the reasons why Windows Phone 7 handsets haven’t been flying off the shelves this holiday season. Charlie Kindel started the debate with “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t It Taken Off?” and largely faults the relationship between the OEMs, Microsoft and the carriers.

MG Siegler responded with a fairly weak response largely citing the mantra of “too late and not enough apps” but as can be seen from today’s news of 50,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, the latter argument really isn’t that valid.

As usual, Robert Scoble hits the nail on the head. People buy Android or iOS because it’s a safe bet and they don’t want to look stupid or uncool by buying something else. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s Blackberries simply don’t have the gold-plated appeal of a sure-thing.

And he’s right. I was a big Palm fan and look how that turned out. I do feel stupid. After spending years waiting for Palm to move from PalmOS to WebOS and then HP promising to do big things. I bought in with a succession of Pre phones and pre-ordered a TouchPad. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shallow and have a less of an ego, because WebOS is a great operating system and even with the smaller app selection, it does 99% of what I need a phone to do. But when everyone else is, “Have you got this app and that app” on their Galaxy S IIs and iPhone 4Ss, you do feel a bit of a chump.

So thanks, HP. I feel stupid.

Buying a Good Android Phone Takes A Lot of Research

Android Phone I have decided to replace my iPhone 4 with an Android phone so I started to do some research. One of the advantages of the Android system is there are a lot of choices. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Android system is there are a lot of choices. Yes, what makes the Android system great may also be it’s biggest weakness. It is too easy to make the wrong choice. The first thing I had to decide on was which carrier I was going to go with. For me that decision was fairly easy I am still in the middle of my contract with AT&T and I am not willing to pay the early termination fee, so I am staying with AT&T. However if I was at the end of my contract I would have to choose between AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Tmobile or perhaps a local provider. So how do you decide, the best way to decide is not by phone, but service availability. The best phone in the world does little good with poor coverage. So what coverage is best in your area. Look around which service provider do most of your friends have. Look at the coverage map for the provider you think you might want to go with, how is the coverage in your area.

Once you’ve chosen the provider you are going with then you can start looking at phones. Do you need a phone with a physical keyboard or do you want a touch screen. What about the camera, how many pixel do you want it to have. Are you looking for a phone that has social media front and center or is this a phone for business. How big of screen do you want. This where I recommend actually physically holding one in your hands. Some of the phones with the bigger screens felt awkward in my hands, if you have large hands they maybe perfect. What do reviewers both professional and consumer say about your phone. When looking at the reviews, think is what they are complaining about important to me or not. These are all questions you should ask yourself.

Once you find the best phone for your situation, then you need to decide if you want to go with a contract or no contract. You can get a phone for free if you agree to a two-year contract, however if you decided to break that contract before the time is up you are looking at a steep termination fee. Also many free phones are on older versions of Android and may not upgrade. If you decide to go the no contract route, you will have to pay full price for the phone, which can be over four hundred dollars.

The final decision you have to make is the version you want to go with. Thirty-five percent of Android phones are still on Froyo, although that number is going down as more and more phones move to Gingerbread, which now makes up fifty percent of all phones. Which leads to another problem with Android, the up grade process. Different phones, get up graded at different times depending on the manufacture or the service provider or sometimes not at all. The newest Android version coming out is Ice cream Sandwich, some but not all phones on Gingerbread will upgrade to Ice cream sandwich. Which ones will upgrade is still unclear, it is important when reading articles on which phone will upgrade that you read the most recent article, because the list can change daily.

After I did the research I ended up going with the Motorola Atrix 2 with At&T. It has gotten good reviews from most review sites and consumers. It appears it will be getting Ice cream Sandwich at some point in time. I was able to pick it up for $49.00 as an upgrade through the Amazon store. I am supposed to get it sometime later this week. Once I use for a bit I will give a full review of the phone itself. The bottom line is if you want to get a good Android it takes a lot of research and time.