Tag Archives: Tablet

Reset With No Restore for Nexus 9 Refresh Success



My Nexus 9 tablet has been a stalwart companion since replacing my Nexus 10 back in late 2014. It’s still a good Android tablet, though it was never a great tablet, and it’s accompanied me around the world on my trips for both business and leisure. Recently, performance began to suffer with all too regular crashes and I was getting worried.

The Nexus 9 arrived with Android 5 Lollipop and has been successively upgraded through Marshmallow and now Nougat. Sadly, it’s been confirmed by Google that 7.1.1 is that last OS version that the tablet will receive, while continuing to download security patches for now. Still that’s three years of good service but it’s also three years of OS updates and app upgrades filling the tablet with cruft.

After daily, sometimes hourly frustration, I decided it was time for a factory reset and profile restore. Google makes the process straightforward enough but it’s still necessary to check that any unique files are copied off the device. Once the restore is complete, you have to dig out passwords and log back into email, social media and chat apps, often complete with two factor authentication.

It’s even more annoying when you discover the Nexus 9 is still as flaky as ever. Nooooooo…..

I really didn’t want to give up on the faithful friend. Who does when a replacement tablet is going to cost a couple of hundred quid? As a last ditch attempt, I reset the Nexus 9 but this time, didn’t reload my profile and only added apps back in as I needed them. Result….the Nexus 9 has been rock solid since then (touch wood and all those other superstitions!)

You can find the option in Settings > Backup & Reset. Turn off Automatic Restore before doing the Factory Data Reset.

There’s my tip of the day. If your Android tablet keeps freezing or rebooting, do a factory reset but don’t bother restoring your profile. Keep it clean.


Shift from Qwertyfree Helps Visually Impaired at CES



For the visually impaired, typing on a smartphone or tablet keyboard can be tricky as the small keys can be hard to pick out. The team at Qwertyfree are developing a replacement keyboard with just five keys to help those with poor vision. Todd finds out more from Craig.

The idea behind the new keyboard is that in English eight letters are used over 60% of the time so why not focus on those and make those letters the easiest to use. Called Shift (as in shifting gears on a manual transmission), the app has a four areas; up, right, down, left, with a selection of letters in each – it’s a little like the directional pad on a remote. The user swipes once to get a primary letter and then swipes again to get a secondary one, with the keyboard reading out the selected letter. So just swipe left for E, or right for N.

The new Shift keyboard should be available by the end of the quarter, though it may be Android only. No news on price.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


Venturer EliteWin S 11KT Review



Venturer LogoLess than a year after launching their first foray into the market, the team at Venturer have given their 2-in-1 Windows notebooks a quick refresh and adding an “S” into the product name. Consequently, on review here is the EliteWin S 11KT, the big brother to the BravoWin S 10KR, and these new editions are priced at an additional GB£50 over the original models. Let’s take a look and see if the new ones are worth the extra cash.

(The picture makes the keyboard look bigger than it is – it’s the same size as the screen..)

As before, there’s not much between the BravoWin S and EliteWin S models other than the size of the screens, which are 10″ 1280×800 and 11.6″ 1366×768 respectively. Both are IPS screens and at 11.6″, it’s a big tablet. The good news is that the bigger screen of the EliteWin S brings the benefits of a larger keyboard, which was my main gripe about the BravoWin when I reviewed the previous model. This time round, the bigger keyboard suits me much better, so it’s a good first impression.

As a hybrid, the EliteWin S comes in two pieces, namely the screen and the keyboard, which come together by slotting the screen into a hinge on the keyboard. The overall dimensions are roughly 30 cm by 19 cm (at the hinge) by 2.7 cm when closed up with a bit of an air gap between the keyboard and screen, though it tapers towards the front. The tablet itself is 11 mm thick. The screen can be positioned both facing into the keyboard or turned round for alternative viewing positions.

Opening the EliteWin as a notebook, the hinge rotates downwards to raise the rear of the keyboard up for a slight slope. Two rubber pieces on the hinge protect the desk surface and while the keys on the keyboard are quite small, they do travel nicely. There’s a small button-less touchpad at the front too where double tapping on the left and right side of the touchpad simulates the mouse buttons. It takes a little getting used to without any feedback.

The styling is much improved with the this iteration. Corners are rounded off and there’s a certain Surface-esque trapezoidal shape to the tablet section. Additionally, the flat surfaces are covered in a soft-touch exterior which is surprising in the first instance, but is much grippier than the usual metal or plastic. Coloured in gunmetal grey, the tablet looks much better, though the underside of the keyboard could do with a bit more styling and a matching finish.

Looking over the ports, there’s a microphone hole, HDMI mini, micro SD slot, DC power in, micro USB port, 3.5mm earphone, power on/off button, USB 2 port and Windows button. The EliteWin S can be charged both via the micro USB and the DC power in, with a PSU supplied in the box. On the back of the tablet, there’s volume up / down controls and camera. There are still no USB ports on the keyboard.

In terms of build quality, it appears to have improved. The keyboard and keyboard hinge seem quite sturdy, as before. The tablet itself is plastic although with the soft touch cover and gunmetal colour, it gives a good impression of being metal. It’s pretty sturdy too though it will flex if you force it. Though it’s not the best small keyboard I’ve ever used, it’s certainly very usable and I typed much of this article using the keyboard.

As before, the 11.6″ 1366×768 IPS screen is perfectly acceptable though it does continue to suffer a little from backlight bleeding around some of the edges. It’s most noticeable when the notebook is booting and the screen is black. It’s not something I’d worry about in day-to-day use, though. In terms of touch, I found the screen responsive and at times, I ended up using the touchscreen more than the touchpad.

Specwise, the processor is an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core clocked at 1.3 GHz (boosts to 1.8 GHz) with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB (28 GB reported) of storage. A 64 GB microSD card is included in the box as there’s only around 16 GB of space free on the C: drive. Windows 10 Home is installed, though it’s only the 32bit version despite the 64-bit processor. There’s 11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth too.

Performance is perfectly adequate for what you might call undemanding tasks – surfing the web, watching YouTube, playing Cut The Rope – and you can have a few apps open before switching apps slows it down. Obviously this depends on the apps you are using and the EliteWin S is no Surface Pro 4, so adjust expectations accordingly. Regardless, I found it very usable. Battery life is rated at 8 hours and I got over six hours one day without completely exhausting the battery. However, it is possible to burn through the battery much quicker if you are streaming video.

The 2 MP cameras are a bit disappointing (tablet cameras usually are) but in an improvement over the BravoWin, all the cameras actually worked with the standard Camera app. Cortana interaction is much improved too and she was able to hear me clearly, also unlike the previous BravoWin.

Although I’m comfortable with Windows 10 as a PC operating system, I still struggle with it as a tablet OS. The tablet mode does help and the EliteWin S did detect the removal of the keyboard and pushed tablet mode for my approval, which was handy. The duality of Windows 10 is hardly the fault of the EliteWin, but it does make supporting the 2-in-1 nature of the device that little bit harder.

As I come to the end of the review, readers might be thinking that this review is very similar to the review I did before…and you’d be right because there’s very little difference between the generations. Cosmetically, the EliteWin S is much improved over the previous generation, so while S might stand for Speed with Apple, S equates to Style with Venturer. So….

Question 1: is it worth an extra GB£50 for the newer model? Probably. The S model looks better, seems to be a bit more robust, has a soft touch finish and it comes with a 64GB microSD card.

Question 2: Is the EliteWin S the best buy at GB£249? Harder to answer. There are definitely some competitors out there, even in the 2-in-1 space, and if you aren’t concerned about a detachable keyboard, there are a couple of options at the price point.

In terms of personal peeves, there’s not much to complain about. It’s a bit chunky, the rear of the keyboard could be styled better and an extra USB port would be handy.

The EliteWin S 11KT is available from Amazon for GB£249 and the BravoWin S 10KR is at IdealWorld for GB£189.

Thanks to Venturer for the loan of the EliteWin S and there’s an unboxing video below.


Venturer BravoWin Hybrid Notebook Review



Venturer LogoMicrosoft and small Windows devices are in a difficult space. There’s no doubt that for serious work, a full desktop or laptop is needed, whether based on an Apple or Microsoft OS. When it comes to tablets and phones, Windows is away in the distance behind iOS and Android.

Into this place comes the Venturer 2-in-1 Mini Windows Notebooks, consisting of the BravoWin 10KT at GB£149 and the EliteWin 11KT at £199. These are hybrid devices, capable of switching between tablet and notebook mode by detaching the keyboard. The main difference between the two models is the screen size (10.1″ 1280×800 v. 11.6″ 1366×768) and here we have the little brother, the BravoWin. I’d never heard of Venturer before but they’re a Hong Kong-based outfit so let’s take a look.

BravoWin Tablet

As a hybrid, the BravoWin comes in two pieces, namely the screen and the keyboard, which come together by slotting the screen into a hinge on the keyboard. The overall dimensions are roughly 26.6 cm by 16.8 cm by 2.4 cm when closed up with a bit of an air gap between the keyboard and screen, though it tapers towards the front. The tablet itself is 1 cm thick.

Opening the BravoWin as a notebook, the hinge rotates downwards to raise the rear of the keyboard up for a slight slope. A soft felt pad along the hinge protects the surface and while the keys on the keyboard are quite small, they do travel nicely. There’s a small button-less touchpad at the front too where double tapping on the left and right side of the keyboard simulates the mouse buttons.

BravoWin Hybrid Tablet

While beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, the BravoWin is no looker. It’s two tone plastic, part dark gray, part silver with buttons, speaker grilles and ports all over the place. Well, not quite everywhere; most are located on one end of the tablet. There’s an HDMI mini, micro SD slot, DC power in, micro USB port, 3.5mm earphone, power on/off button, USB 2 port and Windows button. The BravoWin can be charged both via the micro USB and the DC power in, with a PSU supplied in the box. On the back of the tablet, there’s volume up / down controls and reset button. There’s nothing on the keyboard which is a pity as an extra USB port or two would have been handy.

Edge of BravoWin

In terms of build quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The keyboard and keyboard hinge seem quite sturdy. The tablet itself is plastic and it creaks a little in use. It’s not flimsy but it’s not tremendously reassuring either. Having said that, the promotional material extols the BravoWin’s drop resistance, claiming that it’ll survive a drop from 1.2 m. I didn’t test this…..

BravoWin Hinge

The 10.1″ 1280×800 screen is perfectly acceptable and possibly quite a bit better than some I’ve seen recently. It does suffer a little from backlight bleeding around some of the edges, but it’s most noticeable around the hinge when the notebook is booting and the screen is black. It’s not something I’d worry about in day-to-day use, though. In terms of touch, I found the screen responsive and at times, I ended up using the touchscreen more than the touchpad.

The processor is an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core clocked at 1.3 GHz (boosts to 1.8 GHz) with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB (28 GB reported) of storage and there’s around 16 GB of space free so the micro SD slot is going to come in useful – it will take cards up to 64 GB. Windows 10 Home is installed, though it’s only the 32bit version despite the 64-bit processor. There’s 11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth too.

Performance is perfectly adequate for what you might call undemanding tasks – surfing the web, watching YouTube, playing Cut The Rope – and you can have a few apps open before switching apps slows it down. Obviously this depends on the apps you are using and the BravoWin is no Surface Pro 4, so adjust expectations accordingly. Regardless, I found it very usable. Battery life is rated at 8 hours and I got over six hours one day without completely exhausting the battery.

BravoWin Back

The 2 MP cameras are a bit disappointing (tablet cameras usually are) and I couldn’t get the front-facing camera to work in the standard Camera app – the app kept crashing. It did work fine in Skype so it’s not a hardware problem in itself. Cortana wasn’t very happy with the microphone either, complaining about low volume. The microphone is positioned on the end of the tablet along with the ports and wasn’t very good at picking up sound unless you were quite close to the mic.

My biggest problem though was with the keyboard and touchpad, and while this sounds like a break-up letter, the problem was me. I’m a man with big hands and I really did not get on with this keyboard. Technically it worked fine but I was constantly pressing the wrong keys, hitting the touchpad when I didn’t mean to and so on. Probably a better choice for children or people with smaller hands than mine.

The BravoWin is the first tablet I’ve used with Windows 10 and it’s certainly much better than its OS predecessors. I still get frustrated at the hybrid nature of Windows 10 at times, with it seemly unable to decide whether it’s a desktop or tablet operating system. Still, this is hardly the fault of the BravoWin so we’ll move on.

Coming to the end of the review, it’s difficult to place the Venturer BravoWin in the marketplace. It’s competing both against Windows laptops and notebooks, and against Android and Apple tablets. It’s not easy to pigeonhole the BravoWin and identify the best use cases, though the obvious ones are people who need Windows on a device strong enough to throw in a bag without worrying. Sounds like a student to me.

Let’s state this plainly: the BravoWin is a cheap small robust hybrid notebook running Microsoft Windows 10. If that’s what you need and you don’t have much cash, then take a look as it fits the bill nicely. People with large hands might want to check out the bigger EliteWin.

Both the BravoWin and the EliteWin are available from Amazon and other good retailers with an RRP of GB£149 and £199 respectively.

Thanks to Venturer for the loan of the BravoWin and if you like the wallpaper, check out Smashing Magazine’s monthly selection.


Archos 80b Helium 4G Tablet Review



Archos LogoTablets have become ubiquitous over the past five years to the point that Android devices are almost a commodity item in the smaller screen sizes. Regrettably favourites such as the Nexus 7 and Tesco Hudl have been discontinued and the Amazon Fire tablets are tied to their own ecosystem. What’s a geek to do for a secondary tablet or younger family member?

Fortunately there are other models and suppliers. Here we have the Archos 80b Helium 4G tablet for under £100 online. On paper it seems like a great deal – 8″ HD screen, quad core processor, 4G connectivity, 16 GB RAM, microSD slot and dual cameras. Let’s take a look and see whether it lives up to expectations.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Box

Opening the box reveals the 80b Helium tablet plus a USB travel charger with UK and continental adapters. The charger manual does mention a US adapter but there wasn’t one in the box I received. There are two booklets, though one is only warranty and legal information. The other is a Quick Start Guide in a dozen languages.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Front

The 80b tablet has a white screen surround on the front and a silvered back panel on the rear. The top above the camera on the back pops off to reveal the slots for the microSD card and not just one, but two SIM cards. The part that comes off is a little flimsy, so I wouldn’t expect to be switching memory cards or SIMs on a regular basis. (The dirty smudges in the picture below are where I’ve blurred out IMEIs).

Archos 80b Helium Card Slots

The 80b Helium feels good with slight texture to the metal back: it’s easily held in one hand. There’s a small ridge round the edge of the screen and a microphone and camera at the top. There’s a single speaker on the rear, plus power button and volume rocker on the upper right hand side. Finally the top side has the micro USB port and 3.5 mm audio socket. The top micro USB port may not be to everyone’s taste and the slight downside of a single speaker on the rear is that it can be easily muffled when the tablet is on a soft surface.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Rear

Turning the 80b on, the tablet runs largely stock Android 5.1 Lollipop and you have to look fairly hard to find the Archos customisations. As a bonus, Archos has pre-installed a selection of software including Angry Birds, Asphalt O, Green Farm 3, Little Big City, News Republic, Jamendo and MobiSystems’ OfficeSuite, to name a few. There’s also Archos Video player and FM Radio. As the 80b has a SIM slot, there’s a phone app too, and the tablet can be used as a giant phone. Probably best used with a headset as aside from not looking like an idiot, there’s no proximity sensor and ears press the screen.
(Note: some of the online specs say that the 80b runs KitKat but the version sent for review had Lollipop both installed on the tablet and printed on the box).

In addition to making phone calls, having mobile connectivity on-board was handy and meant that I wasn’t always having to look for a wi-fi hotspot to download my latest email or news feed. Obviously there’s the cost of the extra SIM plan though I found that having the extra screen real estate over my phone meant that I was more inclined to get a little real work done on email.

The screen is an 8″ 1280 x 800 IPS display with a plastic surface and this gives screen a slight soft or diffuse appearance at times and benefits from having the backlight turned up. There’s no ambient light sensor in the 80b Helium so it’s a manual adjustment. Depending on the expected use of the tablet, having a plastic screen may be a benefit as perhaps it’s more robust than a glass one. In terms of resolution, 1280 x 800 is the same as the original Nexus 7, though the 2013 model upped it to 1920 x 1200 in a 7″ screen. I like that extra inch in screen size and it’s just enough to make reading magazines a bit more comfortable.

Performance-wise, the 80b is not the fastest tablet in the world. Running Geekbench 3 benchmarks shows that the 1 GHz quad-core MediaTek ARM CPU runs somewhere between the original Nexus 7 and the 2013 revision. Having said that, I felt that Archos tablet responded well and played games like Alto’s Adventure well enough. What I did notice was that loading times were a little slow and switching between apps wasn’t that nippy. The solitary 1 GB of main RAM probably has good deal to do with this.

Archos 80b Helium Single Core Archos 80b Helium Multi Core

Although I didn’t do a full battery test, in normal use the tablet seemed to get through the power source at the expected rate. It neither lasted ages or burned up quickly, though playing any high powered game reduced the charge fast.

The cameras are specced at 2 megapixels (1600 x 1200) for the rear one and 0.3 (640 x 480) for the front facing camera. The camera app has a couple of interesting features. First, a picture can be taken using the “V for victory” sign which is handy for group shots where everyone needs to be in the frame. I found it worked best in well-lit situations and it was a little hit-or-miss where the light levels were low. Second, there’s a “live photo” feature, which is a 5 second video with an inset, perfect for uploading to social media sites. In the live photo mode, the camera is constantly recording, so the clip is the 5 seconds before the shutter button is pressed. Other than that, there are a few controls for white balance, exposure, scenes and effects. Below is an untouched picture (click through for the full image) taken with the 80b’s rear camera on high sharpness.

Archos 80b Tree

Way before Android 6 Marshmallow introduced adoptable storage, Archos had Fusion, a clever OS mod which melded internal storage with a semi-permanently installled SD card. Inserting a 32 GB microSD card and formatting it for Fusion gives the 80b an effective internal memory of 48 GB and the Fusion system is completely transparent to installed apps. It’s neat idea, especially for pre-Marshmallow tablets.

I think we’ve covered all the main bases and it’s time to review the findings. In summary, the Archos 80b Helium is not a flagship device by a long way but as it only costs £92 it would be unfair to expect it to be. This is a budget tablet with 4G mobile connectivity which makes the 80b a bit of a rarity and a useful one too.

For example, I would see the 80b Helium being good for travel where undemanding usage as an ereader and media player along with the bigger 8″ screen make it a suitable choice for entertainment on the go. It’s robust enough to be thrown in a bag and paired with a suitable data plan (such as Three’s Feel at Home), there’s no need to pay for expensive hotel wifi. And at less than a hundred quid, it’s not a disaster if it’s damaged or stolen.

To hit that price point, the Archos 80b Helium is all about compromise. On the downside, it’s slow, the screen quality’s not great and the camera’s poor. On the other hand, the screen’s bigger at 8″, there’s expandable memory with Archos Fusion and 4G mobile connectivity for information on the go. Ultimately, I liked the 80b and it migrated to my bedside, but it’s not going to be replacing my Nexus 9 anytime soon.

The Archos 80b Helium 4G tablet is available from Ballicom and other online retailers.

Thanks to Archos for providing the 80b Helium for review.


iClever Tri-Folding Bluetooth Keyboard Review



iClever LogoI’ve always had a soft spot for folding keyboards, starting with the Palm Portable Keyboard from over fifteen years ago. On review here is the iClever Tri-folding Bluetooth Keyboard (IC-BK05), which brings the folding keyboard up-to-date with wireless connectivity and funky LED backlights. Let’s take a look.

iClever Folding Keyboard Folded

The keyboard comes in a small cardboard box with the iClever keyboard itself, a USB to microUSB cable, a cloth carrying bag and instructions. The keyboard’s dimensions unfolded are 29.1 x 11.7 x 0.8 cm and 16.6 x 12.0 x 1.5 cm when folded. The back or outer shell of the keyboard is metal, so it’s well protected when all closed up, and there are some magnetic catches to keep the keyboard close up. Unfolded, the keyboard feels a little flimsy in the hand, but once it’s on a firm surface with the two outer rests flipped down, the keyboard is solid enough. The iClever Folding Keyboard’s hinge mechanism is on display and looks neat, while also being part of the support for the keyboard.

iClever Folding Keyboard Unfolded

The IC-BK05 has a couple of notable features. First, it works with Android, iOS and Windows. Second, it connects both with Bluetooth and USB. Finally, it has coloured LED key backlights which can be cycled through red, green and blue. The keys are chiclet style with five rows of full size keys and a small sixth set of function keys across the top.

iClever Folding Keyboard HingeThe function keys provide a range of additional functions such as Home, Search, Cut, Copy, Paste, Play/Pause and so on. There’s some variation depending on what OS is in use but I found it handy to have a Home key with Android tablets.

The keyboard can be connected to two devices at the same time, though one has to wired via USB and the other wirelessly via Bluetooth. I’m typing this via a wired connection to a Windows 10 laptop but can switch back to my Nexus 9 with a quick function key.

The IC-BK05 turns on automatically when the keyboard is unfolded. Battery-life is a claimed 300 hours without backlight, but reduces to only 5 hours when the lights are on. The lights have two levels of brightness but I never typed long enough to find out if the estimate is correct. As expected, the keyboard is charged via the USB port.

iClever Folding KeyboardI used the iClever Folding Keyboard wirelessly with my Nexus 9 over a couple days to write a few articles for Geek News Central and found it very productive. I can touch-type and didn’t have any difficulty getting used to the spacing for the vast majority of the keys and everything was where it should have been on the keyboard. It’s worth noting that this is US (not UK keyboard) layout, so there’s no £ sign and @ is where ” normally is. Obviously the lettering on the keys can be overridden in the layout settings but it’s worth pointing out.

I only had one minor problem with the keyboard and that was with a couple of plastic covers on the hinges which had a tendency to pop off when pulling the keyboard out of the drawstring bag. The covers were easily popped back in and I suspect a drop of glue would keep them in place.

Overall, I liked iClever Tri-folding Bluetooth Keyboard and its definitely worth getting this or a similar keyboard if you are going to be doing lots of typing on a tablet. Priced at around GB£35 or US$55, it’s also worth considering non-backlight version (IC-BK03) which will save £10 / $20. The keyboard is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Unboxing video below.

Thanks to iClever for the review unit.

 


Applause Crowdsources Testing at WTS



Applause Mobile ViewGiven the many different models of smartphone handset, in-house testing of apps is rarely effective at achieving comprehensive test coverage. There’s always going to be some model of phone that disagrees with the app. Samir from Applause talks to Andrew about they can help with the problem.

Applause’s approach is to crowdsource app testing to ensure that mobile apps are tested on as many different phones and tablets as possible. Applause call this “in the wild” testing – apps are tested on many different devices with combinations of RAM and CPU by real users on every day smartphones and tablets. These aren’t pristine out-of-the-box latest generation devices or emulators. This real world testing greatly improves confidence that the app is going to work on as expected on full release.

Applause’s list of customers is impressive and includes Google, Netflix, Coca-Cola and Amazon.


Panasonic’s Rugged Tough Tablets go Everywhere



Panasonic LogoTablet computers have become mainstays in our lives in recent years. The compact, yet powerful, nature of these devices makes it easier than ever to perform computing tasks in almost any environment. But most consumer-grade tablets aren’t designed for things like labs, construction sites, or other specialized areas. That’s where Panasonic’s line of Tough Tablets come in.

Aylee stopped by the Panasonic booth to speak with product manager Steven Sikorski. Steven showed off Panasonic’s new line of rugged tablets that are designed to be used in any possible environment. These tablets can run on up to two batteries for 16-20 hours before needing to be recharged. These rugged tablets start with a smaller 7-inch highly portable model and run all the way up to the 20″ ToughPad 4K. All of Panasonic’s Tough brand tablets are currently available for purchase and pricing varies, depending on the model.

Aylee Nielsen is a video host who specializes in covering live events for Plughitz Live.

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


Invisible Touch with HandScape at CES



Handscape logoHandScape claim to be “Reinventing touch” and honestly, it’s not far from the truth. Their HandyCase puts a touch-sensitive panel on the back of a smartphone or tablet which lets the user work the device without fingers obscuring the display. LG has put buttons on the back of smartphones before but HandScape take it to the next level. Todd and Marlo see the possibilities with Tong Luo, founder and CEO.

Originally a Kickstarter project, the HandyCases for iPhone and iPad incorporate a touch-sensitive digitiser into a shell case. With multipoint capability, the touches, swipes and taps are transmitted via Bluetooth to the device which then reacts as if it had been tapped on the front display. This is genius. Imagine holding your smartphone in your hand and being able to scroll through your contact list by stroking the back of the phone with with one finger, and then double tapping to dial the number. Fantastic!

Cases are currently available for select Apple products with prices up to about US$150. It’s not 100% clear from the website what works now and what requires developer support so if you are thinking of buying you might want to confirm to avoid disappointment.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


Ever Want To Learn How To Draw?



Digital Art

Have you ever wanted to be able to draw decent-looking artwork for your website? One of the things I’ve had a fledgling lifelong desire to do is learn to draw. However, I never took the desire seriously. Somehow I’ve always been convinced that in order to be able to draw well you have to be born with some mysterious “drawing talent” which I somehow never had much of.

I recently purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which comes with a high resolution touchscreen and a precision stylus called the Microsoft Pen. I was drawn to the Surface Pro 3 strictly by the ability to run a full version of Windows 10 on an ultra-portable touchscreen tablet equipped with a powerful processor that doubles as a laptop running full Windows 10. The Microsoft Pen stylus was a curious extra packed in the box. The first couple of weeks I left the stylus in the box because initially I didn’t have any secure place to put it. Once I purchased a protective case from Amazon that has a loop to securely stick the stylus in, I finally dug the stylus out of the box. Only then did I start to play with it a bit, initially looking at it the same way I look at the stylus that came with my Note 4 – potentially useful on occasions, but parked in the holder the vast majority of the time.

Curious about how other people were using their Surface Pro’s, I watched a bunch of Surface Pro YouTube videos. I ended up running across a very detailed video by an artist named Riven Phoenix reviewing the drawing capabilities of his Surface Pro 3. As often happens when watching interesting videos on YouTube, I ended up watching some of his other videos, and I quickly discovered he is a veteran 20-year art teacher and has quite a few art training videos posted to YouTube. After following along with several of his videos, I was quickly convinced that his teaching methods could teach me the skill of drawing. I had always assumed that drawing was a mysterious ability you had to be born with, but in fact the ability to draw is a skill to be learned if one is able to supply the motivation and is provided with the proper instruction. Riven Phoenix teaches with the powerful approach of inventing concepts and then constructing sentences with those concepts.

After watching several of Riven Phoenix’s videos, I went to his website www.alienthink.com and ended up purchasing full access to all of his instructional videos. He gives free access to the first 19 videos of his 225 video course on how to draw the human figure. He currently has full access to his entire website priced at $45 dollars, which includes 77 hours’ worth of video lessons. The first free 19 videos posted to YouTube contain a lot of material and completely convinced me I CAN learn the skill of drawing whatever I want.

His teaching skills come across very well in the videos. He breaks the task of learning to draw realistic-looking human figures down in a very formulaic way so that virtually anyone motivated and following along with his instructions in the videos will successfully learn how to draw realistic-looking human figures.

I am absolutely convinced that anyone with the motivation can use these videos and begin to learn how to draw. To my complete surprise, I’m now finding myself spending an hour or more each day practicing with the videos. I had no idea that purchasing the Surface Pro 3 would end up leading me in this new and fun direction.

Though devices such as the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 have something called “palm rejection” that enables you to rest your hand against the screen as you draw or write with the stylus, there are products for sale called “digital artist gloves” that cover the part of the hand that naturally rests against the writing or drawing surface. They are designed to electrically insulate the part of the hand resting on the capacitive touchscreen. I ordered the Huion Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet priced at $17.99 on Amazon. I have yet to receive these and will write a future article once I’ve used them for a while.

With the popularity of the Surface Pro and Apple’s newly-released iPad Pro, here is an opportunity to learn the skill of drawing and put that new equipment to work.