Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


PopClip A Productivity Tool for the Mac

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 7:01 PM on April 25, 2013

PopClip If you use a Mac and want to increase your productivity one of the applications I recommend taking a look at is PopClip. PopClip is like cut and paste on steroid. PopClip is available in the Mac app store and on-line. Once you download and install the application it will appear in your menu bar as a black and white rectangle. Now when you highlight a piece of  text a small menu bar will pop up above the selected text. By default it shows copy or paste, correct spelling on misspelled words, and define selected words. PopClip will also detect links and email addresses and let you open or copy them, and can start a web search for anything you’ve selected.

In default mode PopClip isn’t that exciting its real power are the extensions that are available for it. Some of the extensions that are available are add a note various application including Evernote, Nvalt or Notepad.  Send tweet to not only thru Twitter but also thru other applications such as Tweetbot or Buffer. You can also use it to the send a piece of text to various getting thing done apps like Omnifocus, Things and the Reminder App. PopClip also has other capabilities you can use it to search for a product on Amazon, find a piece of music in Spotify, or search for a video on YouTube. These are just some of the things that you can do using PopClip, the whole list of extensions are available on the PopClip Extension Page. Normally you use the mouse to activate PopClip however there is an Apple Script  you can install to activate it using a keyboard shortcut. PopClip is available in the Mac App store for $4.99. If you want to try it out there is a free trial version available through the website.

G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 5:05 PM on March 17, 2013

On review today is the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile, a 1 TB mobile external hard drive. Aimed squarely at the Apple MacBook crowd, the brushed aluminium finish and white LED compliments the host machine, and the combination of both USB3 and FireWire 800 show its Mac heritage. Of course the drive can be formatted for Windows or Linux use but the G-Drive is pre-formatted for HFS+ and is TimeMachine-compatible. As expected, the G-Drive is bus powered so there’s no power adaptor.

G-Drive Mobile

 

G-Drive Mobile Ports

The G-Drive Mobile has a couple of touches that set it apart from the other mobile drive offerings. To start with, it comes with all the cables that might be needed, so in the box there’s a USB3 cable, a FireWire 800 cable and a FireWire 400 to 800 cable. There’s no getting the box home only to find the cable need for your setup is missing.

G Drive Mobile Cables

Second, the packaging presents the G-Drive to best effect and the “Getting Started” instructions are printed on the inside  lid of the box. Again, it comes back to appealing to the Apple crowd who expect good design.

G-Drive Package

But enough of how it looks. How does it go? Pretty well actually. Connected up to USB 3, the G-Drive Mobile recorded the following data rates:

hdparm gave 107 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
dd gave write speeds around 105 MB/s.
- bonnie++ gave 104 MB/s for writes and 141 MB/s for reads.

I’m fairly sure that those figures make G-Drive Mobile the fastest USB3 unit tested, beating the previous holder by a considerable margin. Under FireWire 400, the figures were obviously slower, but are provided here for comparison.

- hdparm gave 36 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
- dd gave write speeds around 22 MB/s.
- bonnie++ gave 22 MB/s for writes and 55 MB/s for reads.

Price-wise, the model here costs £129.95 but if you want USB3 only, there’s a much sleeker and cheaper version at £109.95 in the Apple store. However, if you need FireWire with USB3, the model viewed above is hard to beat, giving historical compatibility with older gear while also offering fast data transfers on newer kit.

Thanks to G-Technology for providing the G-Drive Mobile to review.

Apple Keyboard Overlays from KB Covers

Posted by Andrew at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2013

KB Cover Keyboard OverlayKB Covers produce lightweight and flexible keyboard overlays for Apple Macs to help make people more productive with complex software applications or type in foreign languages. Andy and Scott find out what’s happening with KB Covers from Bruce Franklin.

KB Covers produces overlays for Apple Macintosh desktop and laptop computers, covering both current and older models. Generally there are three kinds of overlays: those for protection or decoration, for foreign languages and for advanced application use, where keyboard shortcuts are key to being proficient in the app. Each year, KB Covers comes out with additional overlays for extra languages and new applications, often at the suggestion of customers.

The overlays are available on-line from around $20.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast Network.

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Upgrading An Old MacBook To An SSD

Posted by tomwiles at 9:57 PM on December 4, 2012

One of the machines I have is a 6 year old 13” white plastic Intel MacBook. In recent years I’ve used it as a backup machine just in case I needed it. It has a 2 gigahertz Core 2 Duo processor and is maxed out at 2 gigabytes of RAM.

Solid State Drive prices have been dropping lately, so I figured making the swap to a solid state drive and the performance boost it would bring would be worth it. I ended up buying a Crucial 128 gigabyte SSD for around $104 dollars with Amazon Prime picking up the shipping cost.

This evening I made the installation. I started out by installing the new SSD in an external Firewire enclosure and installing OS/X onto it first. After a very smooth, painless installation process, OS/X asked me what I wanted to transfer from the old drive to the new one, and though I left out most of the documents and other clutter, I did tell it to move the applications over, which to my surprise it did a stellar job of copying over to the new SSD drive.

After rebooting into the new drive while it was still connected via Firewire, I copied over a few miscellaneous files I needed and then shut everything down. Next, I swapped the new drive into the MacBook.

The results are nothing short of amazing. The old 7,200 RPM hard drive made the machine seem sluggish and non-responsive. With the SSD in the same machine, things seem to happen almost instantly. The conclusion I take away is that conventional hard drive performance has been a bigger performance bottleneck than we realized.

The days of the conventional spinning hard drive are numbered. The conventional hard drive will one day be going the way of the cathode ray tube monitor and floppy discs.

If you are tempted to shell out big bucks for a new machine just to get a performance boost, if you have an older machine that has otherwise good hardware, consider upgrading to an SSD for an incredible performance boost at a fraction of the price of a new machine.

Buffalo Launches Thunderbolt Portable SSD

Posted by Andrew at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2012

Buffalo LogoFollowing on from GNC’s review of the MiniStation Air earlier this month, Buffalo have a launched the MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD. As you might guess from the name, it’s a portable SSD with a Thunderbolt connection so it’s ideal for connecting up with Apple Macs.

Combining the SSD with Thunderbolt, the MiniStation has a read performance of more than 370 MB/s and a write performance that exceeds 250 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book. And I think those are Bytes and not bits. PC users aren’t left out with a USB 3.0 connection too, though it’s not as fast as the Thunderbolt connections.

MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo, said: “The MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD combines a highly robust and aesthetically pleasing design with exceptionally fast data transfer speed. We have seen how Thunderbolt hard drives have transformed the available speed for read and write to storage devices, but with the additional of SSD in the Buffalo range, the speed stakes are raised again providing astounding performance.

The drive is bus-powered and will be available in two storage sizes, at a recommended price of £229.99 for the 128 GB product and £349.99 for the 256 GB version. There’s a .pdf spec sheet here.

Hopefully GNC will be bringing you a review of the MiniStation Thunderbold SSD in the not-too-distant future.

Pogoplug Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:50 AM on October 25, 2012

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.

Angry Birds Star Wars – Choose Your Side!

Posted by JenThorpe at 11:33 PM on October 10, 2012

Rovio Entertainment is getting ready to release Angry Birds Star Wars. It is going to be available on November 8, 2012. I’m beginning to think that Star Wars is the “bacon” of geekdom. Everything tastes better with bacon. Adding just a little bit of Star Wars, to just about anything, can only enhance it. If you like Angry Birds, then you will probably love Angry Birds with an added Star Wars flavor.

The Angry Birds Tumblr is filled with Angry Birds Star Wars wallpapers that you can download, interesting fan art, and a countdown until when the game will be out. The tumbler page also says “Choose Your Side”. Will you say: “I’m on the Porkside”? Or, are you more of a “Rebel Without a Squawk”? If you feel inspired, you can submit your own Angry Birds fan art.

StarWars.com has an announcement that Angry Birds Star Wars is a collaboration between Rovio Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. The game will be available on iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, Mac, PC, Windows Phone and Windows 8. The announcement also says:

“Angry Birds Star Wars combines the classic gameplay and art style of Angry Birds with the legendary characters, designs, stories, and locales of the Star Wars saga. Gamers will take on the Empire in famous settings like Tatooine and the Death Star, but with the Angry Birds stable of characters playing the beloved Star Wars roles; the innovative touch-screen controls pioneered by Angry Birds are intact and improved, and the game’s humor is as sharp as ever”.

What’s not to like about a round, fuzzy, Angry Bird/Chewbacca, or a golden, metallic, Angry Bird/C3PO? On October 28, 2012, Angry Birds Star Wars merchandise will start appearing on store shelves. This will include Halloween costumes, plush toys, and action figures.

An Open Letter To Apple CEO Tim Cook

Posted by tomwiles at 3:51 PM on October 5, 2012

ear Mr. Cook,

Like many people, I converted to Apple products because it represented real value. My first Apple computer was a second-hand Mac Mini with a Power PC processor. I was impressed by the fact that a clearly obsolete machine could remain so useful and usable at several years of age, when other older computers of the same vintage were long gone.

My next Apple product was a white plastic MacBook with an Intel processor, which is now six years old. Impressively, the machine still remains highly functional today.

Since then, I went on to get a seventeen inch MacBook Pro, two Intel Mac Mini machines set up in home theater configurations, two iPod Classic MP3 players, an iPad 2 and an iPod Touch.

Apple purchases were easy to justify. An Apple computer might cost three times as much as a competing piece of hardware, but the Apple operating system could usually be counted on to continue to function years longer than a competing Windows counterpart. Back in those days, Apple machines were also repairable. My seventeen inch MacBook Pro has been repaired twice, and I’ve replaced the battery myself once.

In my mind, the Apple brand represented usability, innovation, and long-term value. It was easy to recommend Apple products to friends and family, because genuine value was present.

Unfortunately, in the past year or so there has been a change. Recent product releases have failed to excite me. New Apple laptop computer designs present hardware that is close to being non-repairable and disposable. Apple has become a high-end disposable Bic computer. In the realm of phones, Apple, once the innovator, is now failing to catch up to competing Android phone features. Apple seems to be preferring to go down the path of suing competitors such as Samsung in a desperate attempt to cling to past glories, rather than continue to experiment and innovate towards future effulgences.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a brilliant innovator, albeit with some flaws – i.e., he tended to be controlling and manipulative. As a genuine innovator Mr. Jobs was ultimately successful in spite of those flaws, not because of them. It’s been a year since the death of Steve Jobs. I fear the remaining imprint of Steve Jobs on Apple as his personal innovation fades is deteriorating into Apple embracing the skeleton of the dysfunctional parts of the Jobs personality. The genuine innovator at Apple died a year ago. Growing tendencies toward control and manipulation remain.

Steve Jobs created an unprecedented amount of momentum, which Apple still benefits from today. Apple, now at its pinnacle has reached unbelievable heights even as there is an unnoticed malignancy.

For me, the thrill is gone. IOS 6 diminished my iPad 2 experience. I rely heavily on Google Maps, including both the satellite view and Google Street View. The new Apple satellite images in IOS 6 are clearly inferior and fuzzy when compared directly to Google’s superior satellite images. Street View is gone. The YouTube app is gone. Apple has embraced Steve Jobs’ desire to punish Google for coming up with Android and daring to compete with the iPhone. The removal of Google Maps and the YouTube app in IOS 6 is a move born out of spite, not innovation. Actions taken out of spite are always a mistake.

In Apple’s more humble past there has always been a core of users, often dubbed the “Mac Faithful” that would stick with Apple and buy their products no matter what. In recent years, under the renewed leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was able to finally move into the mainstream, picking up a vast bulk of new customers that lack this zealous loyalty. People like me were enticed to buy Apple products by the genuine value they offered.

As a long-time consumer of technology, I lack this Apple zealoutry. My loyalty extends only to products that offer good value. I can only speak for myself, but at the present time I don’t see myself buying any additional Apple products anytime soon. I am wondering how many other recent Apple customers share my lack of loyalty?

What has befallen Apple is unfortunate. It was always fun watching the presentations of world-changing innovations. These days, not so much.

Sincerely,

A now-unhappy customer.

Apple, Samsung and a Third Way for Patents

Posted by Andrew at 6:00 AM on August 26, 2012

Samsung LogoWhen I heard the verdict on the Apple v. Samsung case, I was angry. Angry with Samsung for copying, angry with Apple for suing, angry with jurors for naivety, angry with the legal system for letting itself be a pawn. Over the weekend, I’ve mellowed a little but I’m still concerned about the impact it will have on consumers.

Apple is not a great first inventor. It didn’t invent the PC, the GUI, the digital music player, the smartphone or the tablet: I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to educate themselves as to who did. Apple is great at design, marketing, timing and extracting value from suppliers, partners and customers. Absolutely no doubts there and they have the bank balance to prove it.

Android LogoThe word on the street was that Apple was looking for a $30 licensing fee to cover the use of the patents. As a consumer, I think that’s a rip off when compared to the overall price of the device. None of those patents are intrinsic to the device and I would happily have a phone or tablet that doesn’t have those features. Multitouch and pinch-to-zoom is over-rated generally, and as for the bounce-back, it’s a waste of CPU cycles.

Obviously there are two possible outcomes from an Android perspective. Either the patents are circumvented and Android users get an arguably lesser experience or the manufacturers stump up the licensing fees.

But there is a third way…Wouldn’t it be great if, as an Android consumer, one could choose whether to avail of certain patents or not? You could accept the Apple licensing and pay the extra $30 or else decline and get the non-infringing version. How brilliant would that be and it would let the market decide which patents are valuable and which aren’t.

Of course, the chances of it happening are slim but remember Google and Samsung, you read it here first.

Magellan RoadMate Commercial Truck GPS Navigator 9270T-LM

Posted by tomwiles at 9:44 PM on July 5, 2012

The Magellan RoadMate 9270T-LM is a 7” inch touch screen GPS aimed at the commercial trucking industry. I’ve spent a lot of time with it in real world situations and at this point feel I can give the unit a fair review.

I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting with GPS units aimed at commercial drivers. I live with these things 24/7 and at this point I’ve got a pretty good idea of what a commercial GPS should do. In this review I’ll be using my current Garmin trucker GPS as a bit of a yardstick to compare the Magellan unit to.

The box includes the 9270T-LM GPS itself, along with a long, heavy-duty base unit with dual suction cups capable of securely attaching the unit to virtually any big truck dash, no matter how large or oddly shaped it is. It comes with an AC adapter, which must be assembled with the included prongs for North American AC power outlets. It also comes packed with a USB cable for connecting the unit to a computer for updates, a 12-volt power adapter to power it with a 12-volt vehicle power socket, as well as a very rudimentary user’s manual. The box says the unit can be updated with software for both Windows and Mac, however the website seems to suggest that their Mac update software is limited to certain GPS models.

The Magellan 9270T-LM comes with lifetime maps – that’s what the “LM” stands for. It also comes with lifetime traffic updates, which are accomplished via a passive FM radio system present in many areas of the country. It has a bright 7” inch touch screen that makes the unit easy to read and use. Overall vehicle dimensions can be readily customized, as well as specifying whether or not one is hauling hazardous materials for routing purposes.

The 9270T-LM’s navigation seems on par with the Garmin trucker GPS I’ve had for the better part of a year. It seems to follow truck routes and also is cautious about routing large truck’s around roads it isn’t sure about. One quirk I found with the integrated points of interest is that it does not seem to include the Blue Beacon chain of truck washes, which is a major omission unless I happened to run into some quirk in it’s integrated POI database. I am constantly having to look for truck washes at times on a daily basis so I can get my refrigerated trailer washed out prior to reloading it, so the more complete the integrated POI database is, obviously the better.

In use, the unit warns of an upcoming turn two miles before, then again, as you get closer. It also chimes at both turns and at freeway off ramps. It automatically (and quietly!!!) quickly recalculates if you happen to go past a turn or an exit.

One of the features I really like is the way inputting cities, streets and address numbers works. It is predictive (attempting to predict the names of cities and streets so you don’t have to type the entire words) with a large onscreen keyboard that takes up most of the screen, making the keys easy to hit. It also speaks each letter or number as you hit it, making it easy to tell if you’ve made a typing mistake as you spell the names out.

On the negative side, the unit is fairly inflexible in how it allows you to customize the main screen to your own individual tastes. My existing 5” inch Garmin trucker GPS allows a tremendous amount of flexibility in the multiple pieces of real-time data it allows the end user to simultaneously display. I like to have the current time of the time zone I’m in always displayed, along with the speed limit of the road I’m on, the speed my vehicle is actually traveling, along with how many total miles are remaining for the entire multi-stop trip.

The 9720T-LM has a pop-up display accessed by tapping on the screen that displays the remaining distance, the ETA, the actual vehicle speed, and the elevation. It also displays the direction of travel but I’ve found this digital compass feature to be completely unreliable. This transparent slide-up data display bar stays up for a few seconds and then slides back down with no way to force the information to remain on the screen. It is unfortunate because the large 7” inch touch screen ends up with a lot of wasted screen real estate. I discovered by playing around with it that it is possible to pick one of those pieces of data to display in the lower right corner of the main screen by default. After tapping and getting the slide-up display in position, tap and hold the piece of data you want to remain displaying in the lower right corner and it will stick once the data display slides back down off the screen. The most useful piece of data for me personally and one I find myself constantly monitoring is the current vehicle speed, especially when traveling down two lane roads and going through small towns, which can sometimes be notorious as speed traps.

The Magellan 9720T-LM is capable of multi-stop routes, making it possible to enter a multi-drop trip into the unit all at once, however it falls short in that it doesn’t offer the total miles for the multi-stop trip readily available on the main screen the way the Garmin does. The 9720T-LM only displays the mileage distance to the next programmed stop. This is an important omission for most irregular route commercial drivers, because it is often necessary to calculate the total mileage for a multi-drop trip.

One feature I’d like to see in any GPS is the ability to manually adjust the average prediction speeds myself to particular vehicles. My truck has a 63 MPH top speed, not 65, and not 70. If I could adjust the top speed for about 60 MPH for freeways, and even slower for secondary two-lane roads, the overall ETA predictions would be far more accurate for trucks in the real world.

The 9720T-LM does seem to have some speed limit data for certain freeways, but the data seems to be incomplete. This lack of speed limit data might be revised in future map updates. Going back to my Garmin, it has speed limits for the vast majority of roads, including secondary two-lane roads.

On the plus side, the 9720T-LM calculates routes very quickly compared to my Garmin. On the other hand, the unit can often be somewhat unresponsive to on-screen taps, with delays sometimes of up to a second in some cases before it responds. This delay factor can end up being frustrating if you’ve tapped twice or more thinking that you just didn’t tap hard enough, only to find yourself tapping on something you didn’t intend to and having to start over. To be fair, to an extent my Garmin suffers from the same issue. I don’t know if this is a slow processor problem or a problem that better programming practices could fix.

The 9720T-LM’s integrated speaker located on the back of the unit is loud enough for me to easily hear in my truck at freeway speeds.

Under the “One Touch” menu in the upper right corner of the display, it offers the ability to program in a total of twenty frequent destinations and even save multi-stop trips making it possible to eliminate having to re-enter the same trips over and over again for drivers that are constantly making exactly the same trips or constantly going to the same destinations.

If you are looking for a large 7” inch touch screen GPS for a commercial truck or even a large recreational vehicle (RV), the Magellan 9720T-LM is a nice choice. It offers good routing capabilities for large vehicles, along with a big, beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes display.