Welcome to the JC Tech Review Blog

A little about myself...
I am an IT professional and consultant with over a decade of Microsoft-certified experience. I have grown up my entire life exposed to tech since my first IBM AT/x386 and the Mac Classic.

Exploring the Cutting Edge
I am an overclocker, enthusiastic and evangelist of consumer electronics and applications. As a hobbyist, I am always combining hardware or modifying API's to push the boundaries of what we define as "cool" or "game changing".

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jelly Bean vs iOS 6

Features Head-to-Head - Android 4.1 Jelly Bean* vs iOS 6*

Maps - Winner: Google

Yes, I am favoring Google Maps over Apple Maps (or whatever you call the blobs and helicopter flyover with misplaced landmarks). There is much already written about this fiasco shortly after roll out. Google Street View is simply the gold standard...outdoors and indoors, oh and have you tried "Compass Mode"?

9/23 Update from TechCrunch:
Apparently, Apple is trying to recruit some former Google Maps talent to help them get up to speed more quickly.

Virtual Assistant - Winner: Google

Yes, I favor Google Now over Siri. Speed is better, the Google "Cards" take you to the relevant information faster and has more straight forward answers than Siri thinking for a few moments and return some of the top search results (probably returned from Google)

When you get the response, it just feels more authoritative when you ask "What is the height of Robert Griffin?" and it just responds "6'2" and a picture plus profile of this athlete...instead of just giving me a list of webpages.

Google Now is by far and away the best feature and best reason to upgrade to a phone or tablet that will support Jelly Bean. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S3 in Oct should be getting the update from ICS over the air, if the carriers keep their word.

New Notifications Bar - Winner: Tie

Are the Google Enhanced Notifications better - I'd say yes and no; it takes a while to get used to but after some customization, you're in much more control of how and when status updates or new mail grabs your attention.

The Notification Center for Apple is a bit more helpful, but largely unchanged. Yes, you can now use the little "Tap to Post" button to quickly update Facebook, but how often are you going to do that. It reminds me of the now ubiquitous "Share" feature in most Android native apps, represented by the triple-dot icon, where you can post/email/tweet directly.

"Do Not Disturb" Mode - Winner: Apple

Jelly Bean has it so that you can set certain hours as quiet time - however, phone calls will still go through. iOS6 on the other hand can mute all calls except those by a list called "VIPs".

You can add a person to the VIP list very easily. Edge goes to Apple on this one. Ironically, Apple also has a VIP list for email - a la Gmail's Priority Inbox.

Camera App - Winner: Tie

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean now makes it easier than ever to quickly "flick-to-delete" photos so that you don't have to worry about using a Spray and Pray shutter mode setting and clogging up your gallery and memory card later. The highlight for iOS6 I would say is the panoramic mode, which makes it much quicker and easier to "stitch" together a horizon of photos into one seamless panorama.

Cash-less Payments - Passbook: Apple

What's Passbook? Think (Store Coupons + Gift Cards) in one electronic wallet app.

We'll have to see if this takes off, but right now Apple has some heavy hitters lined up with deep discounts to try to hook people in. Even with the push for NFC devices and the existence of those gas swipe cards and proximity sensors for credit cards, the market has not seen a huge demand for replacing the tried and true Cash and Plastic model just yet.

Summary - Apple's falling further away from the Google Tree

I understand Steve Jobs wanted to cut any/all ties with Android/Google and fearlessly separate itself from the pack. But seriously, unless they invent self-levitating bridges that do not need any kind of earthen anchors, it might not be so smart to "chop first, worry later".

So I can see that with iPhone 5, Apple is making a bold and decisive attempt to divorce itself from Google (no more native Google Maps or YouTube apps).

But that's sort of like trying to divorce yourself from the power grid right?

Sure in theory, it sounds great to become a mobile home wind farm and solar company - totally independent and self-reliant of any real infrastructure. Blah - who needs Infrastructure when you've got a big Apple logo branded, smack dab in the middle of your own technology. Yes, "think different" indeed.

But wait until you're trying to find your way through the NYC metro =)

Good luck, brave Louis-and-Clark explorers! I hope you make it out of Grand Central alive before the rats find you first. ;-)

*Brief mobile OS comparison disclaimer

For these comparisons, I have based my opinions of both OS, on slightly aged technology. In my opinion, if it really is well-developed software, it should shine through even without dual/quad core processors and 32 GB of internal memory.

For an Android phone, I still own an Infuse 4G phone from AT&T, which I have successfully "modded" it about 2 months ago to run the CM10 Jelly Bean with Butter. Look - it is NOT the official 4.1 Android OS build and yes it is only single core, but it does demonstrate most of the key features that I wanted to compare.

Also, since iOS6 is available in many other Apple products...I have decided NOT to buy the iPhone 5 yet. Yes, I have tried the iPhone 5 but the iPhone 4S with iOS6 has most of the same features and capabilities too so why not stick with that?

The Kool-Aid is indeed strong with this one...

"The 4S looked the same as the 4," one customer said. With the 5, "everything is different — even the headphones."
Again, Apple has blown away its previous sold-out record and the mob goes wild. =) It can practically gross the equivalent of a small country's GDP on just iPhone's launch week alone.

But seriously though - I do see that iOS 6 has added a great deal of new features even in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 that reflects Apple's new approach and path forward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Power Searching with Google - video education + intelligent search optimization

Google.com/edu

Flowing from the wildly popular idea of learning to code online (codecademy.com) of which I am a huge fan, Google's Daniel Russell (Senior Research Scientist) has put together a classroom collection of video classes and homework "activities" about tips/tricks for Google Search at http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/

Update:
They will be conducting an encore on Sept 24, so remember be sure to sign up today!

Power Searching = dig deeper, find more with fewer keystrokes

Google just released this week these series of lessons, tutorials and hands-on practice called: Power Searching with Google Just attended their live google+ hangout. They have the Q&A session on YouTube with lots of great questions and guest speakers. It would have been cool to see Matt Cutts as well for the SEO questions too, but I'm sure he's a busy guy :)

Awesome certificate from Google! Enroll today!

If you Teach a man to fish...

There are so many amazing things you can do with a google search query... I would highly recommend this course to anyone who loves using Google search (who doesn't?) :) You can save time every time you want to buy something, research something, look for a new picture or video.

Ok yes, you can always go to the "Advanced Search" button and fill out the various fields...but who does that? For example, I rather type in [site:weather.com dc 2008..] to find articles about DC weather that have the year 2008 or greater.

If you know how to combine this with the google maps, images, video, etc...it makes a HUGE difference. in life.


"What is Steel compared to the hands that wield it?"
- Conan the Barbarian


So it's not just that the (search) engine that is powerful, it is how the car's driver pushes the throttle and what direction he steers with the wheels.

Get inspired. Check out these other videos about how Google search can change the world: http://www.youtube.com/searchstories


Q: Did anyone ever ask you, if you were to go on a spaceship to live on the moon and could only bring one book with you...what book would that be?

A: Assuming there's internet access on the moon, I would bring these Google classes.

Yes, there is something to be said about trying to know everything. Which I do not and maybe nobody can.
I rather try to be that guy who knows how to find anything.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Microsoft 2012 Re-innovation or Re-branding?

Time to scramble it up and try it again!

Windows Metro - Tiles, Tiles and more Tiles FTW!

One has to ask whether the unification of Windows Mobile Phone and the next Windows Desktop OS 8 plus the Surface tablet, and quite possibly the next gen Xbox 720 can or more importantly should be merged into one??

So Microsoft has announce the new Surface, a tablet to compete with the Andriod Transformers and iPads of the world. How will it do being the last one to the party?

Old Dog wants to learn invent some new tricks

I have to hand it to Microsoft though, if they can make this interface a home run, then it is a bases-loaded Grand Slam out of the park MVP winner. But if it gets a lukewarm reception like it's first wave of Nokia phones earlier this year, we could be seeing the Big Bust of the decade. It took the modern software giant almost 15-20 years to build its empire and become a staple of the middle-class home...it defines PC.

When I can't find my icons...

For all of Microsoft's critics, I for one have appreciated some of its ability to create a logical (abeit sometimes obtrusive) way of computing for the common person. Growing up with both a Mac and an IBM AT, you notice the fine philosophical differences that the designer had in mind, but also you grow accustomed to the routine.

Remember when MS Office 2007 came out, and everyone screamed in horror?
  • Where are my Menus?
  • Why is there this big round button taking up all my space.
  • What is this Ribbon Interface?
  • and what did you do with Clippy??
  • Waaaaahhhhhh!!

This is not a point release - this is an overhaul...bring the BIG wrecking ball

Well, when you want to revolutionize an interface (meaning not just going from windows 95 to 98 to Windows ME), you have to take some big bold cuts at the bigger pictures. Not everything will be for the better. Not everything will be as easy as it was intended.

But this is the only way out of the incremental improvements we have been seeing with Apple in the last few years...yes, it has leap-frogged Microsoft, but now that it is in the lead, it doesn't want/need/have to take as many risks. That is one big problem with being popular - you got most of the cool kids to like you, so now you just try to keep things mostly status quo.

Quelling the peanut gallery - learning from your peers and siblings

Example with rocking the boat? Facebook. Timeline and the dozens of little micro-tweaks. I cannot remember a change where a vocal portion of its use group didn't raise arms and threaten to leave...only to come back later from peer pressure.

I have a feeling that Microsoft will have to take this risk of alienating some of its core. It needs to achieve a rock solid interface (no more 1995 blue screens). Apple has made it clear that users expect consistency in the results - when I press this button, this happens...every. single. time.

From the Google and Android camp, it needs solve the riddle of Customization. That means users have flexibility, expand-ability and the option to make their experience unique. Also, you expect to find what you need, when you need it. Gone are the days when we tolerate waiting around for the wagging dog to crawl through our files/folders. There should be some "self-organizing" aspects of a smart OS (did you mean...) when you think of something you find it.

Getting stuff done

That needs to be the new MS motto. No gimmicks, no cheap parlor tricks or easter eggs for short-lived applause. It needs to get its act together now and give users the tools they need to 1) surf the web 2) play their games 3) interact socially 4) still be what defines a PC

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dell U2412m e-IPS compared to TN Monitor Review



Benefits

  • 24 Inch e-IPS Monitor
  • 16:10 ratio (much better for viewing webpages than 16:9, imho)
  • LED Display - lower heat compared to LCD's
  • Great Color - much richer tones
  • No noticeable lag vs old 2ms TN monitor (SC2 ranking actually went up)
  • It can pivot 90 degrees, horizontal and vertical; although I have yet to take advantage of this feature
  • It is nicely adjustable for height, pitch and pivot. Solid stand.

Buying Decision

After a lot of Dell deals and mass sellers went by for ~$300, I decided to buy from this Amazon store instead. I'm very happy with my purchase, and my eyes are happy too!

You can now get this monitor just as cheap or cheaper after shipping with the same 3 year warranty from Amazon Marketplace. Scroll down to the "NEW" section to see other retailer prices. I got mine from a NY retailer "battery_juice" with no issues.

Un-boxing Fun

During the un-boxing, you may notice that the screen cover is actually quite large. Please note the pictorial warning and do not allow any babies to use it as a cave! Although it may be just large enough to be used as a small hot air-balloon.
Monitor cover bags are not toys!!

Here are some other good reviews for this monitor


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CES 2012 - Free Promo Code "MASH12" (exp 12/1/11)


Just registered and received my badge for CES 2012 (http://www.cesweb.org/) for free!

A few weeks ago, I got a Priority Code from the cool folks at Mashable.com "MASH12" (http://mashbash.eventbrite.com/) - promo code expires Dec 1st…saves you that $100 registration fee

Also went for the VIP Admission ticket to attend MashBash 2012, which was only $15 more. Hope it will be a great networking event with a lot of cool tech to see for the coming year.

Recommended tips to see CES 2012 on the cheap
  • Use frequent flyer points if you're booking a last-minute trip or popular destination. CES 2012 is expected to host over 140,000 people that week, so air fares were north of $450 (about $200 more than normal). Some airlines will also have hidden "sister airlines" that will accept the same mileage points - I used only 25,000 points to go from DCA to LAS!
  • Use AirBnB.com or an alternative rental booking agency, if all the hotels you want are sold-out. When I looked elsewhere online, the rooms were all going for $200+/nt. My important criteria was to be within walking distance to the Las Vegas Monorail and preferably stay at a decent non-smoking, non-gambling hotel. I really lucked out by getting a 1-bedroom suite off the strip, with some promo codes for just $100/nt.
  • Use the promo code above (MASH12) before Dec 1, to register at (http://www.cesweb.org/) for free! I had missed the earlier September deadline*
  • Join CEA Enthusiast Club (http://www.ceatechenthusiast.com/) which keeps you up to date on the latest CES developments and currently have a great offer saving up to $10/month on your Verizon Fios bill
Hot Tech Wish List that I hope to see there...(Updated: Jan 10, 2012)
  • Andriod Cell Phones (LTE support) + latest Android OS with ICS
  • Windows Kinect 2 (?) - Kinect for PC: Feb 1
  • iPad 3 / iPhone 5 from Apple
  • Ultrabooks or Transformer Prime Hybrid - lighter, 7 to 9 inch convertible, mini-tablets with better resolution screens
  • New-gen HDTV (4K?) and IPS Monitors with 120Hz support


Monday, September 19, 2011

AT&T Infuse 4G Case Review - Incipio Feather


Infuse 4G Cases

My favorite and current case is the Incipio Feather for Samsung Infuse 4G.


They come in various colors, but the Red seems to be the best and boldest color.


Here's another great video review of the Incipio Feather Case

Pros:
  • Ultra-light and thin
  • Soft touch finish (not rubbery like TPU cases)
  • Relatively inexpensive (~$18)
  • Great brilliant color finish
  • Easy to take off (useful if you also use a Dock)
Cons:
  • Not much protection if you happen to drop it
  • Can scratch easily if you carry it with keys

I've tried several other different cases, including the Infuse 4G TPU Skin cases which are very popular. However, the TPU cases can feel a bit too rubbery and are easy to get dirty for me. They do provide a bit more protection though if you do drop it and are just as light.

With a phone like this, I wanted to get something to cover it but would not be overly bulky.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Samsung Infuse 4G Phone Review

AT&T Infuse 4G Phone
Here is my new cell phone that I renewed my AT&T 2 year contract:
Samsung Infuse 4G Android Phone (AT&T)

New AT&T HSPA+ Phone

When originally it came out in May - June, this was one of the first HSPA+ phones from AT&T along with the HTC Inspire. It also rocked the largest touchscreen ever (4.5 inches) at the time.

AT&T started airing their (in)famous Giant Tarantula TV spots. A friend of mine raved about it and had been following it for quite some time before its release. He got it the first week that it came out for $200. I waited about a month, before I finally felt it was time to let go of my old Nokia e71x and just upgrade. Update: Now you can buy it for $50 or less online.

My Mobile Handset History and Biases
Just to give perspective on all the other cell phones I've owned:
Sony Ericson W600i - Cingular
Motorola RAZR - Motorola

HP iPAQ hw6915 - Windows Mobile OS
iPhone 3G - Apple iOS
Nokia N85 (unlocked) - Symbian
Nokia e71x - Symbian

Pros:
  • Android Phone (can be rooted and open platform for Dev)
  • Huge Display - 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display
  • Excellent for Web Browsing - I use the web on my phone at least 3x more now
  • Thin and Light - under 9 mm thick and weighs under 5 ounces (beats iPhone 4
  • Long Battery Life for Android - usually lasts 2 full days with regular usage
Cons:
  • AT&T - Stuck with Froyo (Android 2.3) - even though you can mod it with a rom for Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)
  • Requires two hands to swipe with it comfortably
  • Call quality is average
  • Not as fast as the Samsung Galaxy II or SG2 Skyrocket (LTE)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Opera Mini 6 for iPad and iPhone

Opera Mini 6 is now finally available for iPhone and iPad!