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May 18, 2011 • Editorials

Adventures in Cloud Computing Brought to Me by WildBlue

image courtesy of toothpaste for dinner

Cloud computing. It is here. It is powerful. It is growing. It is a good thing? Had you asked me a week ago my answer would have been a resounding “Yes!” A week later, I’m not sure sure.

Read on if you care to join me in my wireless nightmare …

For many years, Dial-Up was the only way most people could get online reliably, and the two main sources of internet access seemed to be AOL and to a lesser degree, MSN; because I wanted to be different, I went with MSN, and I thought it was great because Dial-Up was all I knew.

By the early 2000s, DSL service from Verizon was widely available, and within a few years Broadband Cable Internet was too. Both were affordable, and to the best of my knowledge neither was capped at any particular usage point — and if they were, I never managed to hit the cap. Needless to say, a speedy and unlimited in-home broadband connection quickly became something that I — and I daresay millions of others — completely took for granted.

Fast forward to 2008, when I moved to Kevin’s ranch outside of Eldorado, Texas, and my options became much more limited. DSL and Cable were not available outside of the town limits, but dial-up was available on his Verizon home line. The good news was that he had “broadband internet access” through West Central Wireless, which was basically a beamed microwave signal from a tower. This only worked a his house because he had an antenna with an unobstructed view of the transmitting tower. I put it in quotes because it wasn’t anywhere near as fast as what I was used to, but it was still unmetered (at least, as far as I could tell), and it got the job done.

This solution worked well enough, even if speeds were not quite what I was used to.

Then came the next move and… “worked well enough” became “lucky to have any connection at all”.

In 2009, I like to joke that Kevin and I became modern pioneers. We picked a completely wild and unimproved location, and we drilled for water. Once we’d found out that water was available, we installed a well, figured out where a septic could most economically be placed, and had a stock tank put in that would serve double-duty by watering the livestock and providing us with a place to swim. We had an electric line installed, a house was built, decks and patios were installed, and a yard was put in; we made a home.

Noticeably absent were two things that most homes in the city have pre-installed — we didn’t have a single telephone jack, nor were we wired for cable. Instead, we relied on our mobile phones for communication and DirecTV Satellite for television service.

Internet access suddenly became a HUGE deal.

We had hoped that we could continue Internet service with West Central Net in our new location, but alas — our home did not have an unobstructed view of the WCN tower. We were told that West Central was in the process of upgrading their equipment, and that a solution which wouldn’t need a direct line of sight would soon be available, but “soon” was still months away. That left only one option: Satellite Internet.

I researched Satellite Internet providers, and ended up with two candidates, Starband (which I had previously tried and was thoroughly unimpressed with), and DirecTV (formerly Hughes) which was served through WildBlue. Installation and monthly costs were certainly reasonable; in 2009 Wild Blue started at $39.99 per month, with the highest package at $69.99; we were charged $200 or so for the installer to come out and put everything in, which was fine with us! We knew that our installation was definitely not “standard”.

I’ll admit to being a bit concerned though, because the three WildBlue package costs were not only separated due to WildBlue offering faster connection and download speeds on each progressively higher level, they were tiered according to the amount of data we would be allowed to download and upload per 30 day period, due to WildBlue’s “Fair Access” Policy (FAP).

Fair access? That was a new concept for me.

Here’s the thing; by this point Gear Diary was just over two years old. As a result I was extremely reliant on my Internet connection. It wasn’t just a convenience, it was a necessity for the site to continue thriving.

Moreover, I had increasingly embraced cloud computing, and I took unmetered broadband Internet access for granted. I don’t think that I had ever really stopped to consider exactly how much data I used when uploading photos, uploading or downloading YouTube videos, running online backup products like SugarSync or DropBox, downloading music and Apple iTunes updates or when doing anything else I did online, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

The main thing was that I didn’t want to nickel and dime myself on data access, because I need a solid and fast broadband connection to operate Gear Diary effectively! So just to be safe, I opted for the highest data package at $69.99 per month, agreed to the two-year service commitment, and considered this one more hurdle jumped. Whew!

I don’t remember what the exact upload and download amounts offered in March 2009 happened to be, but here are the prices and amounts for the packages WildBlue offers now. I’m sure what we had was pretty similar:

All was good right? WRONG! We were throttled within the first week.

Seriously, we opted for the top-tier package and we still throttled the first week. Here’s the weird thing — we were out of town for much of that first week, and there was absolutely no way that anyone could had been piggybacking off of our secure network, but WildBlue said we had hit our allotted threshold.

As a result, we were choked down like a misbehavin’ dog on a chain.

We had fallen under WildBlue’s Fair Use Policy (FAP), and apparently this was (and is) pretty common because the WildBlue forums are completely loaded with other people’s complaints.

Here’s the gist of the policy:

WildBlue gives the customer a specific number of Gigabytes that can be downloaded and uploaded in any given rolling 30 day period. For example, the Pro-Pak user is given a 17Gig, or 17,000MB download limit and a 5Gig, or 5,000MB upload limit. Should the customer exceed this limit they will be fapped. They will be throttled down to much slower speeds until they reach 70% of their rolling 30 day limit. A monthly limit was used for several months however some users would see that they had perhaps 8Gig of download bandwidth that they had not used on the 29th day. The user would then download everything and anything in order to get their monies worth and all use all of their allotted bandwidth. This created overuse of the system and causing slowdowns near the end of each month. By using a rolling Fap, if you use a large amount of your bandwidth on a given day and go over the limit set by your plan, you would have to wait until that day rolled out of the rolling 30 days. This has effectively stopped this type of use. Fap was designed to help all users to a equal amount of internet access.

Let’s face it, not only did I not WANT to ever go through the inconvenience of being unable to access my email, the site, my RSS feeds or any other online thing again, but I couldn’t afford to run into this issue again. I had to do something.

It turns out WildBlue has business account options, and I was relieved when they “allowed” me to convert my two-year $69.99 per month contract with WildBlue into a two-year contract with their business account reseller, Dove Digital.

Once again I opted for the highest plan offered; this one allotted 30 GB download and 10 GB upload for $199.99 per month. I sucked it up, called this a cost of doing business, and I considered myself good to go. Because honestly, at this point — what other choice did I have?

Problem solved right? Wrong, we were just getting started.

First off, I had to deal with latency issues and poor upload speeds which meant issues with using Skype, VOIP, online gaming, and even uploading photos for reviews, but hey! I rationalized that this was the price of living where I wanted, and I could deal with the trade! I also had to suffer through outages nearly every time the weather was poor, but I rationalized that I live in West Central Texas, so the skies are usually clear. And if it rained it was a small price to pay, because we always need rain! And then … I also had to accept the fact that uploading videos and video unboxings was going to be a thing of the past, but again I rationalized that the comments left about me on our YouTube channel each time I did a video were getting old anyway! And yes, each time I had to download another 600MB+ Apple update for my iPad, iPhone or iTunes, I wondered in the back of my mind if they might somehow one day add up and bite me on the butt, but hey — nothing had happened yet, so I figured that everything was A-OKAY!

Until it wasn’t. And when it went bad, it went bad in a huge way.

All of which brings us to last Thursday evening.

It started innocently enough. I noticed that the internet was more sluggish than usual. Looking at a stack of product reviews that couldn’t wait and items that needed to be edited, I continued to plug on.

Then the internet ground to a halt and I had to call it a night.

I told the team that things were even worse than usual, but that I fully expected things to be back to their mediocre normalness in the morning.

Morning came and things weren’t moving any more quickly.

Friday I called Dove Digital … and I was told that we had been FAP’d — throttled and choked! This was despite being on the highest plan they offered, and yet we had still managed to exceed the data threshold. Urgh!

I was told to wait until Sunday night before I tried to do anything online again, and I should be okay.

I managed to get through the weekend by using my iPad 3G to answer email and do light editing.

Sunday night, we were still choked.

What in the world could have possibly caused us to exceed our thresholds? According to WildBlue:

Some activities are more likely to exceed the upload and/or download usage thresholds and cause speeds to be slowed under the Fair Access Policy.  Several examples are listed below:

  1. Full-length movie downloads
  2. Unsecured wireless router
  3. Heavy use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs
  4. Continuous downloading or viewing streaming media content such as; online video and radio
  5. Extended use of web cameras
  6. Extensive downloading of large applications or files
  7. Extensive uploading of home movies, photos, and/or large email attachments
  8. Extensive use of online backup services such as Carbonite, Mozy, SOS and HP Upline.

Okay fine … I get it. One of the side effects of embracing cloud computing is that I do many of the things toward the bottom of the list, and evidently they added up until I was FAP’d by my Internet service provider.

How long would I really have to wait until I had decent internet speeds again? WildBlue doesn’t do their 30 day usage period by the calendar, so it wasn’t just a matter of waiting for my next billing date. Instead they use what’s called a “rolling 30 days”, which is explained this way:

Your daily upload and download data usage is measured to determine if your total usage has exceeded either of your usage thresholds over the previous 30 days for the service plan that you have selected.

A rolling 30 days is defined as “the past 30 days” from the current date.

For example, if today were July 25, 2008, your usage would be measured from July 25, 2008 back to June 26, 2008.  If you check your usage again on the next day, July 26th, your 30-day window would be from July 26 back to June 27.

Note:  The rolling 30 days is independent of the number of days in the month.

Since the WildBlue site I was given to monitor my bandwidth has been conveniently down ever since I was throttled I can’t even check and see where my usage level sits … but as of today, we are still choked.

what choked looks like on WildBlue

Now I’ll admit that for half a moment while I was talking to my Dove Digital rep, I seriously considered asking if perhaps they had added a newer higher priced business plan than the one I am already on, in which case I would just bump my service level up another notch.But then I stopped myself. I am now out of my two-year contract period, and half the time I am dissatisfied with WildBlue’s service because it performs so much more poorly than advertised.

Did I really want to throw any more of my money at a bad solution.

Not really.

The obvious solution would be to try to limp along while the FAP period with my MiFi, but no mobile carrier offers 3G where my home sits. Instead I have been using my iPad2 3G on non-3G speeds to check email and do light editing. And I am still waiting for the choke-hold to be loosened.

As a side note: I put in a call to West Central Net to see if they ever finished that upgrade they were talking about two years ago, the one that would make it possible to get service even without a direct view of the tower. They are coming out on Thursday morning to do the test, and I am half-afraid to dare hope that for their $59.99 Platinum plan I could finally kick WildBlue to the curb.

In the meantime, I am left nearly disconnected and fuming … and wondering if perhaps it is unrealistic for me to try to keep so much in the cloud. I also can’t help but wonder this isn’t the type of thing that will eventually be the cloud’s downfall.

I’m NOT a data hog. I don’t move gigabytes of data back and forth from cloud storage, and I rarely use streaming music services; I don’t download games, and I know better than to even try to stream movies … I don’t have a Netflix subscription. I understand that all of the streaming services people on unmetered broadband enjoy and yes — largely take for granted — are not options for people in my situation, and I know that I may not ever be able to do many of the things that are taken for granted as part of computing in 2011. I get that there is a trade-off, and I am willing to accept it, because it does allow me to live exactly where I want to be. And yet, it seems unbelievable that in 2011 people who live in rural areas should be so cut off.

The cloud is powerful; it is so, so 2011, but with Internet providers still living in the 1990s, I can’t help but wonder… are ISPs about to rain on the cloud’s parade?

Because all of you people who live in urban areas with seemingly unmetered broadband, what’s happened to me could eventually apply to you as well! We have already seen “unlimited” data on many of mobile plans get capped with metered amounts, and now internet service providers in Canada and the US are doing or at least considering the same.

So how about you? Have you dealt with metered internet at home or at work? Do you have reservations about the cloud, knowing that if everything is stored there, putting it there and accessing it may not always be an affordable option? Or are you tripping along as I was, thinking that because you are paying XX amount of dollars and you don’t use that much data, you’ll be just fine? Do tell!

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April 23, 2011 • Editorials

Spring Cleaning: If an App Doesn’t Work with Evernote or Dropbox? Buh-Bye!


There are specific iPad applications that are key to my productivity day in and day out, and the “qualities” they need to have if I am to use them has evolved over time. Looking back over the ways in which they have changed in the last year or so, I realized that there is a specific pattern to those applications that have become more central to my work and daily life and those that were once useful but have fallen off the island.

Strikingly, these changes have less to do with the applications themselves and more to do with secondary applications and services with which the selected apps work. To be more specific, at this point if an application does not integrate and sync with Evernote, Dropbox or (to a lesser extent) Toodledo, I’m not interested.

I know that might sound a bit rigid, but there are some very specific reasons for that statement. Let me enumerate them, and then I’ll highlight a few of the apps that fit into this approach and are finding significant use these days.


Reason Number One: Platform Agnosticism

While I am a devoted Mac OS X and Apple iOS user, I don’t want to be completely locked into Apple’s platforms. Because of my writing here on the site, I want the flexibility to be able to review computers and mobile devices that run different operating systems. In addition, I like to “tinker” (play?) with new devices, and Apple’s upgrade cycle is annual. That means new devices once a year. BORING! In addition, thanks to their flexibility, I find myself increasingly drawn to devices powered by Android. Finally, my assistant Sunny refuses to make the move to Mac, and there are times when I need to seamlessly move files from her computer to mine. The result of all this is that I want my files stored and organized in ways that are accessible regardless of the device or platform I am using at the moment.

Evernote, Dropbox and Toodledo all allow me to have just that.

Each is part of what I refer to as the “hybrid web” – that is, services or programs that are resident on your device AND in the cloud. For example, you can access Evernote through any Internet-connected browser, but there are also “official” versions of resident applications for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Palm. The result is that my data is backed up and stored on Evernote’s servers (i.e. “the cloud”) but my data is also resident on my MacBook Air, my Mac Mini, my iPad, my iPhone and the list goes on. This sort of redundancy gives me a great deal of comfort, especially since I have seen more than one data disaster.

Because each service has multiple platform apps, it does not matter at wall what device I’m using at any given moment. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I always have the option to either access my data through the browser or download their resident application and not have to rely on a data connection.

And this just goes for the actual applications provided by the services. Because each has made API’s accessible to developers, there is an entire eco-system of apps that have been developing around them, each using the service as the underlying “engine” and each storing new data along with all the other data. In an era of mobile computing such flexibility is key.


Reason Number Two: I Am Easily Distracted

The various applications that interface with each of these three hybrid-web service tend to have the ability to automatically sync new data you create. As someone who is often moving way too quickly for my own good, that’s a great thing since I can (and often do) forget to hit “save” when I’m done creating a document, note, task or take a picture. Put more succinctly, most of the apps that work with Evernote, Dropbox and Toodledo are “idiot”, and thus “Dan” Proof.

Moreover, I can create a new item on one device, it will auto-save to the larger service, allowing me to then access it from any other devices without have to give it a second thought.


Reason Number Three: Zipity-Doo-Da — Boy, They’re Fast and Deep

In most cases the various programs that interface with any of these three services are merely the front end that use the service as the underlying engine. Since they aren’t the service themselves, they have to “make a case” for why you would want to buy them and have yet another app on your device. That justification usually that reason comes down to one of three things: Either the application/interface is incredibly fast, the application/interface streamlines the process of creating or accessing data, or the application adds functionality that would otherwise not be there. Often these programs do all three – they are fast, they simplify the process of using the more complicated program or service and they extend what that service can do. That is a big deal when you want to quickly create a new appointment, a quick note, grab a picture that you can access from anywhere later, or record a quick voice note.

For example, a new “note” in Evernote can be in the form of text, voice or image. That means if I want to add a text note I’ll need to start the app, choose “new text note” and then type my note. That’s three steps, and while that is not complicated when I am in a rush I want to streamline the process as much as possible. An app that immediately starts a new text note is a nice convenience to have available to me.

Another example: if I want to create a new voice note I can go through the three taps to get to Evernote and wait for the startup process to finish. At times this is far longer than I might like. In fact I just tested it and it took a few seconds before the recording actually started. On the other hand, I might choose to use an app that records voice notes and immediately uploads them to my Dropbox account. I tried it just now and the app was recording me in under a second. I pressed stop and not three seconds later my MacBook air indicated that the new voice note had been uploaded to Dropbox AND downloaded to my computer. Slick huh?

Another example — Dropbox was never intended to be a task list service, but as it become more and more central to my workflow this ability becomes increasingly attractive. An app that lets me create new lists and store them in Dropbox is rather useful at times.


Reason Number Four: Mama Always Told Me That It’s Good to Share

Very often the content I create needs to be shared with one or more other people. I may create a note that I want to send to my assistant, or I may go down an idea for a post that I want to share with Judie and the other editors. Many of the various programs that take advantage of Evernote, Dropbox or Toodledo’s API and make it easy to create and share new content. Sharing content is, in fact, an aspect of the core service and the various applications that work with them.

The result of the various points made here — platform agnosticism, auto-sync, protecting data through redundancy, speed and sharing — have made each service increasingly valuable to me. And once task management is truly nailed in either Evernote or Dropbox my list of hybrid-web services will go down to two. More than adding value to the services however, they have led me to a key conclusion that guides what apps I use and how I use them. That conclusion? If your app involves creating, editing or sharing notes or tasks in any form you had better work with one of these services. If you don’t… I’m not interested.

In Part 2 we’ll look at apps that work with Evernote.
In Part 3 we’ll look at apps that work with Dropbox.
In Part 4 we’ll look at front-ends for Toodledo and the top four or five apps among all those discussed.

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April 19, 2011 • Gear Bits, News

GD Quickie: DropBox Updated With Cool New Features!

DropBox is a great tool – essentially it is simply an online storage provider, but the excellent Mac, PC, iOS and Android app interfaces make using that space and sharing items an absolute breeze! Yesterday my iPad pinged me that there was an update … and it has a few great new options!

First, you can now bulk upload photos rather than doing them one at a time! Generally I wouldn’t worry about this, but I just scanned dozens of old slides from my parents and wanted to have them available in multiple locations in addition to my iPad. DropBox made this trivial!

Next, you can now use ‘Open In’ functionality for files in your DropBox! This lets you drop just about any file type in your DropBox and then choose the app to open it with. Hardly revolutionary as a feature, but it makes the app even more useful!

Together these features help the already-excellent DropBox better than ever – and help the iPad become more of an autonomous computing device than ever!

DropBox is a free app, and the service provides 2GB of free storage. Check out the site, and the app!

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April 10, 2011 • Reviews

iOS App Review: Ecamm Printopia for Mac Brings AirPrint Capability to iOS Users with Older Printers

When Apple announced AirPrint for iOS devices, I could almost see Steve Jobs’ point about the “post-PC era”. Being able to print from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch (newer devices with iOS 4.2 or later) wirelessly sounded great. Indeed, Google’s Cloud Print functionality for their Chrome browsers works in a similar fashion. But then I found out how limited the supported list of printers was. Heck, even those of us with Apple Airport Extreme wireless routers that have attached printers could not use AirPrint:

AirPrint only works with a network connection to an AirPrint-capable printer. A printer connected to the USB port of your Mac, PC, AirPort Base Station, or Time Capsule is not supported.

(Apple covers which iOS devices and printers are supported in their AirPrint 101 support article.)

Since I like to utilize the latest technology to make my life easier, what would I do? Should I go out and buy a new printer? Well, I decided to at least look at the list of printers, to see what was available. You see, I like using color laser printers. I don’t like how easily smudged inkjets printouts can get, and I like having a color printer that is networkable directly, via Ethernet or WiFi. Looking at the list of supported AirPrint printers, several of the newer HP ePrint models work (both with AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, by the way). Out of the list of available printers, there were two color laser printers that met most of my needs, but not one. You see, my current color laser printer supports duplex printing, and I like being able to automatically print on both sides of the page.

Luckily, not all is lost. A short Google search turned up a reference to Ecamm Printopia, an application which allows any printer connected to your Mac to be available to your iOS devices via AirPrint. In addition, you can also use AirPrint to send the printout directly to your Dropbox account, as well as your Mac. This sounded great in theory, and they had a seven-day trial, so I figured I would give it a try.

Installing Printopia

Ecamm Printopia is a small download that installs as a Preference Pane in your System preferences on your Mac. You must have your Mac running on the same network as the iOS devices you plan to use AirPrint with. I installed it on my Mac mini home server, and the Preference Pane popped up.

Printing via AirPrint to a Printer

I then went over to my iPad. I selected the command icon in the browser, and chose the Print option, which uses AirPrint functionality.

Then, you select a Printer from the list:

And then you choose options for your printout. A nice feature is that it recognized that my printer has automatic duplex (two-sided printing), and I was able to print on both sides of a page — a nice touch.

The printout went to my printer very quickly, and looked VERY good.

Printing via AirPrint to Dropbox

I decided to try the Printopia print to Dropbox function next. It shows up as one of the printer options in AirPrint. (This requires you have Dropbox installed on your Mac.) When you print via Printopia to Dropbox, a PDF file is created in your Dropbox folder on your Mac under a folder named Printopia.

Printing via AirPrint to your Mac

The same basic procedure works for printing to your Mac. A PDF is saved in your Documents folder in a Printopia subfolder.

Print Quality

I decided to see if there was any difference in print quality output between the same web page printed directly from my Mac and printed via AirPrint/Printopia.

As you can see, there was a little bit of difference in what printed on a physical page, but that could have been due to browser rendering differences in Chrome on my Mac versus what the iPad sent via AirPrint. In the picture above, I mention which printout is from AirPrint and which one is directly from my desktop.

Regardless of the slight variation on what printed on a physical page, the quality of the printout was identical. Images came out very high quality, and while printing via AirPrint using Printopia is slightly slower than printing directly from my Mac, it’s not a major difference. The convenience of being able to print directly from my iPad won me over.

Useful Even Without A Printer

One aspect I found very interesting with Ecamm Printopia is that it even adds functionality if you don’t have a printer! Some people don’t like owning a printer because they are an additional cost, or don’t have one because they want to be paperless or environmentally conscious. If you install Ecamm Printopia and don’t have a printer, you still can use it to print to your Mac or Dropbox as a PDF file. This alone makes it very useful to me. You can also enable specific printers, so if you have more than one printer at home or don’t want to allow printing to Dropbox or your Mac, you can disable them.

So, what do I think of ECamm Printopia? Let’s just say that after five minutes with it, I purchased a license. The downside is that you must have a Mac running on the same WiFi network, but since I have a Mac mini running at home as a home server (much like Dan does) which is always on, this isn’t much of an issue for me. Until I decide to upgrade printers (which won’t be for several years), Ecamm Printopia looks like a capable, inexpensive solution that offers even more functionality than an AirPrint-capable printer. I love the Dropbox PDF functionality.

MSRP: Ecamm Printopia is available for $9.95, direct from Ecamm.

What I Like:

  • Ability to use any printer my Mac can see, including providing duplex (double-sided) printing capability
  • Print to a PDF to Dropbox!
  • Print to a PDF to your Mac

What Needs Improvement:

  • Nothing (unless you consider requiring a Mac to be an issue)

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April 7, 2011 • News

AVG Launches ‘LiveKive’ Onlive Storage System

Like many folks, I make great use of DropBox for non-sensitive storage options for files I need to access from a variety of platforms. The free storage level tends to work fine for me, but I know many folks who take advantage of the reasonably priced upgrades in storage.

Now AVG, a company best known for making great malware and anti-virus products, has launched a new competitor: LiveKive. The service is similar to those offered by competitors, including backup, sync and more.

Here are the basics: Free 5GB storage account, with 25GB costing $49.99 per year, 50GB for $59.99 or ‘unlimited’ for $79.99 per year as shown below. (I put unlimited in quotes because according to the terms “In the event you chose an unlimited storage option for the AVG Paid Services, your usage of the Services if in excess of 500GB may at AVG’s sole discretion be subject to additional usage fees.”)

Here is the text of the press release:

AVG Technologies, one of the leading providers of Internet and mobile security software, today launched AVG LiveKive™, a safe and reliable cloud-based storage, sync and share solution. It offers consumers a quick and easy way to access their personal information, data, files and digital content online, via multiple channels and devices.

“Consumers are increasingly aware of the need to protect their personal data. By providing secure and easy automatic backup, AVG LiveKive offers users vital peace of mind, something we believe is essential for all of our customers”

AVG LiveKive has been developed to adapt to the multi-platform needs of consumers, who need to backup and store personal data and digital content remotely for seamless, anytime, anywhere access.

AVG LiveKive offers consumers a reliable and sophisticated alternative to archiving, and makes information instantly accessible. The automated syncing functionality works on both Apple and Microsoft platforms. Data can be viewed and shared from any web enabled device, including Android, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.

AVG LiveKive offers consumers three tiers of secure encrypted storage options, ranging from a free 5GB offering, as well as two paid versions providing either 25GB or unlimited* storage.

“Consumers are increasingly aware of the need to protect their personal data. By providing secure and easy automatic backup, AVG LiveKive offers users vital peace of mind, something we believe is essential for all of our customers,” said J.R. Smith, CEO, AVG Technologies.

“As the largest provider of free anti-virus, we are focusing our expertise to creating a secure ecosystem of products and services that our customers can use with confidence. Cloud-based secured storage allows customers to save and share their personal memories and data, with the knowledge they are protected by AVG’s advanced security,” added Smith.

“Our customers have told us that they know how important it is to backup their vital data including photos, videos and music, but they’ve also told us that they find it to be a chore,” added Stephen Simpson, Global Head of Consumer Propositions, AVG Technologies. “AVG LiveKive’s ‘set and forget’ feature means that consumers can have peace of mind when it comes to their valuable data. By utilizing AVG LiveKive, their important data on our secure servers can be easily recovered in the event their computers are damaged, lost or stolen.”

“The ability to access your files from any PC, Mac or even your iPhone or Android device, is where AVG LiveKive truly demonstrates its power over more traditional backup methods such as external hard drives,” commented Simpson. “The ability to share large files securely through AVG LiveKive’s Share rooms feature also enables users to overcome another obstacle when it comes to sharing files that are simply too big to send via email.”

I have already grabbed the iOS app (Universal, always nice), and also the Android app for my phone. The ability to share files so easily between platforms is always greatly appreciated. Check it out!

Source: AVG via GottaBeMobile

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March 30, 2011 • Editorials, News, Rants and Raves

Adventures in Customer Service- Apple and Spilled Crystal Light Edition


I thought of a number of different titles for this post.

One was: “No Use Crying Over Spilled Lemonaide”.

Another was “MacBook Airs and Crystal Light Do Not Mix”.

Another was “Apple, I’m Sorry for all the Nasty Things I Have Said and Thought”

Then there was “I’m an Idiot”

Eventually I settled on simply using “Adventures in Customer Service- Apple and Spilled Crystal Light Edition”.

Here’s my story.

I did not have a good morning. I woke up not feeling particularly great and immediately had a number of phone calls with people who are in the midst of challenging times. I finished my morning coffee and went to get the package that the UPS delivery person brought to the door. I came in back to my desk and – bam – My elbow knocked a huge glass of Crystal Light lemonade that was sitting there and dump it directly into… the keyboard on my 13″ MacBook air. Seriously, if I was intentionally aiming to dump the greatest amount of liquid into my Air I could not have done a better job.

I screamed (something that is not appropriate for a rated G family website) and immediately grabbed the computer. I held it upside down and tried to drain as much water from it as I could. I knew that this was, however, largely futile since there was so much water and a good deal had already made inside. I let out a few choice words and yelled for Elana.

She started helping to clean up the liquid so that I could hold the laptop upside down a bit longer. When I finally set it down strange sounds were coming from inside of it and the fan went on in a way I had never before heard. I knew I should probably shut down but my last TimeMachine backup was not all too recent. (Yes, I need to take my own advice and backup more frequently.)

The keyboard was dead. So was the trackpad. Out of curiosity I checked and discovered that the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that I usually use with the Air when I am at home were still working. I quickly pulled some key documents from the computer and put them on a hard drive that I received for review. I was not overly concerned about the majority of my documents however since they are always in a folder from Dropbox or Evernote and are therefore backed up to the cloud. (That is the beauty of using what I like to refer to as “hybrid web apps”. They work like desktop apps on your computer but have all the advantages of cloud computing.)

I immediately called Apple and made an appointment to bring the computer in. 2 1/2 hours later I was at my local Apple store speaking to one of the technicians. Before I got there I check out how much it would cost to replace the laptop. It is the loaded 13″ MacBook Air so this promised to be a rather pricey spill. They took the laptop into the work room and opened it up to look inside. A few minutes later the technician came out and told me “There is quite a bit of water in there”.
“What are we talking?” I asked.
“It is not good. Looks like most of the internals are fried or about to be.”

He went on to say that it was clearly a minimum of a $750 repair if not much more. I had a few choice thoughts but, then again, it was my own stupidity wasn’t it?

And then he blew me away.

“We are going to cover it.”

“Huh??” I said.

“Yup, this is your first instance with something like this and you’re a good customer so we are going to just repair it for you.”

“Are you serious” I asked.

“Absolutely. Pretty much they’re going to need to replace everything including the small dent you got on the computer so it will, in most likelihood effectively be a new laptop. I don’t know if we can save the data on there but we’ll try. It’s going to take 5 to 7 days before you got the computer back. I sorry about that.”

Sorry?? Sorry? He was sorry it was going to take a week? Seriously? I could not believe what I was hearing. My day had started lousy and gotten worse but suddenly things were quite a bit brighter.

So what is the moral of this story? Well, actually there are a few.

1. Back up your entire computer FREQUENTLY. No excuses. Just do it.

2. If you must have liquids near your work area use a sealed container like a travel mug or a capped water bottle. Had I been using one none of this would have happened.

3. Don’t tell me Apple computers are over priced. Some of Dell’s top brass went after Apple earlier today and brought up the “too pricey” argument they love to use. When I had an issue with my iPhone a few months ago they replaced it. Same with my iPod. Those were not my fault so it was unsurprising that they did the swap. But today was clearly my fault yet they are going to get me up and going again. Now imagine if my “less expensive Dell” had such an issue. I can see it now,”Mr. Cohen, here is a price list so you can figure out what you are going to buy.”

Thanks Apple. I have my issues with some of your policies but your customer care is pretty darn amazing.

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February 22, 2011 • Reviews

Android Software Review: SafeWallet and SafeWallet Desktop

It seems like everything in life has a login,or needs a credit card or an account number. There’s tons of information to track, and you certainly don’t want to leave it open in a memo on your computer or saved casually on your phone. That’s where an app like SafeWallet comes in to help.

SafeWallet, from SBSH Software, is probably familiar to anyone who came from Symbian, the iPhone or Blackberry. It’s been around for those platforms for some time, but since I have never tried it this is all new to me. Basically, the app works by creating “wallets” for you that can act as categories for different sensitive information, from credit card numbers to account numbers and email passwords. If it’s important enough to be behind a password, chances are SafeWallet has a form for it, and if not there’s a blank “notes” option for everything else.

SBSH takes your safety very seriously. According to their wiki:

SafeWallet automatically encrypts all the private information stored within it. SafeWallet uses an AES 256bit encryption engine with CBC mode, which is the strongest encryption standard available today and is used by government agencies to store their highly classified information. We also use additional mechanisms for protection against other possible attacks.

You set a password for each section, which gives it another layer of security. All your data isn’t held behind one password, but instead it exists behind a different one for each wallet. If you enter a wallet, back out of it and enter another, and return to the first one you’ll need to re-enter your password again, so even if you leave your phone open to the app no one can just hop in and start digging through your personal items. While I didn’t intend to test it, I was setting up SafeWallet and got distracted, and my screen turned off on my Droid. When I unlocked it, I was back at the main wallet menu, meaning I had to re-enter my password to continue. So don’t worry if you’re using SafeWallet and walk away from your phone still in the app, you’re still protected by the various passwords.

Setup is very easy. From the main page you can create new wallets, and within new wallets you choose from the list of available templates to enter your data. It’s all very straightforward, and I entered most of my important information in a snap. Once it’s all added in, using it is even easier. When you pull up anything password-related, there’s a little lock symbol to the right. Tapping the lock toggles between hiding the password behind asterisks and showing the password. Touching the password copies it to your clipboard so you can exit SafeWallet and enter it in a site, email setup, etc. The same “touch and copy” works for credit card numbers, PINs, etc. Very handy!

So far this sounds great, right? You can track everything from your insurance policy numbers (which NEVER seem to be handy when you’re on the phone with someone about your insurance!) to your email password to your credit card number, all in your smartphone that’s practically glued to your side anyway. But you want to make sure your information is stored off-phone, or you need your iPod Touch and your Droid in sync with your laptop, so SBSH offers some very cool options there too!

If you’re just going laptop<==>Droid, you can use SBSH’s SafeWallet desktop application (more on that in a minute). But if you’re looking to keep several devices talking, SafeWallet also offers Dropbox sync, which works very nicely. All it takes is entering your Dropbox login and password (which you should have saved in SafeWallet!) and that’s it. Just hit sync in the menu every time you want to keep everything up to date, and every SafeWallet app you have with your Dropbox information can stay nicely in sync. I really like this system, since it not only lets you keep data backed up and synced, it also adds another layer of password protection since not only is your data covered within SafeWallet’s passwords but also in your password protected Dropbox.

However, if you’re just looking to coordinate between a laptop and your smartphone, you can set up local sync over WiFi through the SafeWallet desktop application. I had some difficulty getting this sync working, though the issue could easily have been in part due to my netbook being a bit finicky. Also, if you’re planning on using Dropbox at all for SafeWallet you’ll need to turn off Dropbox to use local sync. I found it was easier to just leave Dropbox sync on, and to update the desktop app by importing the updated files from my Dropbox. SafeWallet Desktop picked up the files once I downloaded them and imported them seamlessly into the app.

The desktop app itself looks great, like a larger-screened version of the smartphone application. Just like in the smartphone version, clicking on a credit card number, password, etc copies them to the clipboard. If you leave the app open on your desktop for a set length of time, it locks itself and requires you to re-enter the wallet password you were last viewing before you can reopen it. And if you make changes that you need to send to your smartphone, it’s equally easy to export the files as .xml.

Overall, I really like SafeWallet. There’s a ton of information out there to track, and keeping important information in GMail, or in scraps, or in your plain old leather wallet, is both insecure and inefficient. Keeping it all handy in an easy to use app with several layers of passwords and backups is a MUCH better system, and SBSH Safewallet makes it a breeze to set up and use. I keep saying I need to be more organized with important information, and now I have no reason not to be!

SBSH SafeWallet is available for $3.95 from the Android Marketplace. The optional desktop software for Windows is $14.95.

What I Like: Several layers of password protection; Dropbox sync works seamlessly; easy to set up and use; lots of security measures and lockouts built-in by default.

What Needs Improvement: Having to flip between Dropbox OR local sync for the desktop app is a pain

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February 1, 2011 • Gear Bits

iPhone App Quickie: DropVox Lets You Record Voice Notes and Auto-Save to DropBox

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I’m always searching for new ways to use my iPhone to create voice notes and turn them into text. I have found a number of good solutions — primary among them Dragon Dictation. But I’ve always wanted to be able to record a long voice note on the iPhone (Dragon is limited to just 60 seconds at a time) and then 0nce I’m back at my desk, apply the application MacSpeech Scribe to transcribe a long audio recording. The problem I’ve always run into is the fact that many voice note applications don’t record with a quality or a format that the Mac application can use. The other issue that I have run into is that it is cumbersome to transfer a long voice notes to a computer. In many cases you cannot do it over a date connection and need to be on the same local WiFi network as the computer.

Hopefully that changed this morning with the release of a new application, DropVox.

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DropVox lets you record a voice note and then have it automatically sent to your DropBox account.

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That way there is never any doubt where the voice note is and it is always ready and waiting in your DropBox account.

As I recorded using the app:

If this application records with high enough quality it will allow me to create a long voice note on the iPhone and then, once I’m back at my desk, find it wait in my DropBox account and ready to be transcribed.

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I’m actually recording this entire post using the application on the iPhone and then I will use the Mac application to transcribe it shortly. If it works properly and transcription accuracy is good enough the end result will be a perfect partnership of applications for creating voice to text.

END of voice note.

So how did it work? Quite well!

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Within seconds of recording the voice note the file was in my DropBox account and on my MacBook Air.


Using the MacSpeech Scribe program I was able to get the note transcribed in a few minutes, and the accuracy was pretty good. Any shortcoming in the transcription process belongs to the Mac app and my need to train it more , not necessarily with the iPhone app itself.)

DropVox is currently on sale for $.99. If you use DropBox and create voice notes this is a fantastic option for recording audio. It is simple, fast and puts your audio notes right at your fingertips… Where ever your fingertips may land!

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January 15, 2011 • Gear Bits

GD Quickie January 15, 2011- A Surprise iPad Tutorial Session


The first night Elana and I were here in Cabo we had dinner at one of the sit down restaurants here at the resort. A nice young guy came by and asked if we wanted a picture taken. We politely declined. On the way out we saw him uploading some of the photos using his MacBook Pro and his iPad. Of course I had to strike up a conversation.

Turns out Samir is French, and had originally come here for an internship in hospitality management. He had decided to come back and start his photography business with a friend. I told him about Dragon Dictation and said goodnight. A short time later he emailed. He had found Gear Diary, liked what he had read and asked if I might be able to give him a quick tutorial on making the most of his iPad. I was more than happy to do so.

Yesterday we spent some time talking about how he might use the iPad more effectively. By the time we were done, not only did Dragon Dictation have a new convert but so did Evernote and Dropbox. Even better, Gear Diary got a new international reader in the process!

If you are in Cabo, check to see if the photographer working is Samir Benyettou. If he is, make sure to say hello and have him take your picture. He’s a great guy and I love seeing someone start his own business equipped with just a camera, a MacBook Pro and an iPad!

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January 10, 2011 • News

Ilium Software Launches eWallet GO! – Their First App for WP7

Well established mobile software companies are slowly rolling out apps for Windows Phone 7.  Ilium Software, a long-standing mobile software company, has just released its first WP7 app, eWallet GO! (the ! is theirs – not [necessarily] an indication of my excitement).

eWallet is a secure information manager (password protector, etc.) that has been around for quite a few years, expanding to new platforms as they are introduced.  It’s an old favorite of many – I myself have used eWallet on several different platforms in the past.

eWallet GO! offers over 30 card templates, ranging from credit cards to website passwords to contact information. Your information is protected by 256-bit AES encryption.  Further, eWallet GO! provides backup and restoration tools.  Your information can be backed up to and restored from your Google Docs or Dropbox account.

eWallet GO! is available for just $4.99 through the Windows Phone Marketplace.  For more information, check out the product page here.

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January 2, 2011 • News

Gear Diary 2010 Gear of the Year and Predictions for 2011

The past year has seen interesting developments in the gear we all use: the term iOS replaced iPhone OS as the OS that started on iPhone was also on the new iPad when it took the world and Gear Diary writers by storm, Android phones blossomed and became real competitors to the iPhone, and the iPad got its first real competition in the Samsung Galaxy Tab just a few months before 2010 drew to a close.  While there’s much more that happened in the past year, I thought let’s ask the following questions of the Gear Diary Team.

1. What was your favorite gear in 2010 and why?

2. What gear are you looking forward to in 2011 and why?

These were our replies …

Joel McLaughlin: 1. It pains me to say this, since I AM a Linux Guy, but I must say the iPad. It has changed the whole industry and the way they look at tablet/slate computing. It’s even spurred on Android developers and manufacturers to bring out the Android version. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Galaxy Tab, there just isn’t enough there to compete with the iPad just yet. As for Microsoft, I think they are on the fence with this. They were pioneers in tablet computing but must have spent too much time with Kin and Windows Phone 7 this year to notice.

2. Android Tablets! Need I say more?? The Galaxy Tab is the first real competitor to the iPad. There’s also the Archos 101 and Archos 70 to look forward to, plus a WiFi version of the Galaxy Tab. Sure, this may bring up the “fragmentation” problem, but I think that Google and the Android developers out there will be able to produce something that will really shine. Unless the Oracle lawsuit tarnishes it, I think 2011 will be a bright year for Android on both the phone and tablet fronts.

Christopher Gavula: 1. I have to agree – the iPad. This device has single-handedly created a market out of a nearly non-existent market. Its become the most quickly adopted consumer electronic device ever – beating CD Players / DVD Players and MP3 players. Martha Stewart is always saying great things about it on her show, and Oprah has declared it as “the best thing ever”. It’s caught both the attention of consumers and business alike. Developers are scrambling to build or update apps for it, and people are talking about amazing new and unique uses for it. Yeah – the iPad has changed a lot in the industry, and it is stirring up competition as companies jump into the market.

It has changed how I do many things. For example, I no longer run to my laptop to look up something quickly on the web – I just grab my iPad. I no longer carry a bunch of heavy technical books when I travel – I have them as eBooks on my iPad. Yeah – I could do much of this on my iPhone, but the iPad’s larger screen makes it easier to read without being inconveniently large, and the tap/pinch/zoom makes browsing easier. It definitely gets my vote as my favorite gear of the year!

2. I’m looking forward to a new iPad and the iPhone 5 this year. I’m also really anxious to see what Android devices make it to market, but I really hope they figure out how to reduce the fragmentation or the platform may have long-term viability issues.

Francis Scardino :1. As Joel put it, I would have to agree that the iPad is definitely the device that made the biggest difference. From Corporate America to toddlers, the iPad has something to offer everyone. I would have liked to have nominated the Nexus One, but too much attention has been stolen due to Apple’s status as Tablet King. The Nexus was considered a “push” for the market, and I think it is responsible for some of the designs we have today — but nothing tops the almighty iPad. All things tablet will be an attempt to dethrone that device, which tells me that they certainly did something right. Although I do not own an iPad, it’s one of the few Apple products that I believe to have no equal. It also pains me slightly to admit it, but I vote the iPad as the undisputed 2010 Gadget Champ.

2. There are a few things that I hope to see mainstream in 2011: The first would be a decent competitor to the iPad, another is low-priced Solid State Storage. It’s inevitable that the mobile world will continue to grow exponentially with new technology and components and features that integrate more into our daily lives. Since most gadgets are designed to be portable these days, I think one of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of a new type of renewable power source. It’s time to take all that great technology and make it run for days on end without plugging it in or recharging it. That’s my biggest gripe with smartphones, laptops, tablets, and MP3 players. I think things are progressing, but not nearly as fast as everything else. I would love to see fuel cell become a usable reality or some other type of chemical cell that replaces Li-ion as our main source of power. That’s mainly what I would like to see in 2011.

Doug Moran: 1. The iPad. I won’t go into details, but its impact on the market, the computing world, and how people use and relate to “computer devices” (ask Dan!) almost cannot be overstated. It’s Arthur C. Clarke’s “Newspad” from 2001 made real — nine years late, but good call, Mr. Clarke!

The Windows phone may make an impact going forward. But it appears to me that like almost everything Microsoft puts out into the market, the first revision is not quite ready for prime-time. I expect the next iteration or two to be much better, because based on what I’ve read Windows 7 for the phone is a better OS code base than, say, Windows Mobile.

2. More Android tablets—we need competition in that space, and I hope the Windows phone improves.

Travis Ehrlich: 1. What is your favorite gear of the year and why? I will have to go the common route and say the iPad. The technology and user experience is very clean and intuitive. I believe the iPad is the first pieces of technology I have used that seems to continually change and grow with time. It seems that I have only scratched the service on the power and uses for the device.

2. What gear are you looking forward to in 2011 and why? Of course as an Apple fanboy, I look forward to the iOS devices that are on the horizon. I think there will be some changes to the iPhone which will further compete with the number of Android devices available. I love the competition in the smartphone market, and I hope that something totally new to all of us blows our minds in 2011

Carly Z: 1.  I’m going to be the voice of dissent here. I think my favorite gear is going to be the Kindle 3, with a close tie being the NOOK line. Not only are they fantastic devices, but the price wars have made them more accessible to everyone. And even with lower prices Amazon and B&N still pushed the envelope with hardware and features.

2. I’m excited in 2011 to see the directions and changes to computing. We’ve seen changes with the iPad in how people manage work on the go, and the team at CES is going to be rocking Galaxy Tabs instead of laptops. Plus I’ve been pretty immersed in cloud/lightweight computing with Chrome OS lately…and I’m seeing that there’s a lot more that can be done through lightweight apps and using the internet for heavy lifting. I think this coming year with the increased availability of tablets, smartphones, etc we’ll see computing become even more decentralized, and how we adjust and adapt is going to be fascinating to watch.

Michael Anderson: 1. I will have to join the iPad chorus – aside from being a constant companion for email, web and social networking, I use it for loads of productivity (full MS office, mind mapping, todos, scientific calculations and statistics, and on and on!), gaming, video, music listening and most recently music production – the AmpliTube and Tascam Portastudio are excellent!

2. I see 2010 as a year of expansion – we have all of these so-called ‘convergence’ devices, yet most people are carrying MORE than ever! I am hoping 2011 will be the year for useful convergence – we have the technology with stuff like tablets, so it is time to ditch dedicated iPods, low-performance notebooks, and other superfluous crap!

Dan Cohen: 1. It would be easy to join the iPad-chorus since that device has certainly impacted to many aspects of my life, both professional and private. But I won’t. No, I won’t say the iPad, because it is the standout. Rather I’m going to go with… The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Why the Tab? Simple. The Tab is increasingly well-received by people; it is not an iPad, but it is a darn good device. The reason the Tab stands out for me is that it will push Apple to be even better. I don’t subscribe to the idea that Apple does ONLY what Apple wants to do. Sure they are arrogant; sure Steve Jobs does what he wants but lets face it… Apple is in the business of making money. And if people like what they see in the Tab, then Apple will take notice. Maybe not A LOT of notice but they WILL take notice and react somewhat. No, they will never let on that they are following the Tab’s lead, but they will follow. Were there NO competitor to the iPad at all, Jobs and Co. would make their decisions based ONLY on Stevo’s Vision. The Tab means Apple has to look and respond to things a bit differently, and that is good for the entire market.

2. I have two predictions, and they are not tied to specific gadgets…

a. The hybrid cloud will reign supreme: I have been using the term “hybrid-cloud” for some time now. I don’t know if I coined it or not, but regardless it aptly describes services like Dropbox and Evernote. Data is stored in the cloud but ALSO synced to a variety of devices. The services are cross-platform and, as a result, let you access your data everywhere no matter where you are or what device you are using. As always-on data connections continue to grow and cloud storage continues to become cost-effective these approaches will continue to grow. Add in the expected and we will all be using more cloud on all our devices. That’s good news in a variety of places but especially since new notebooks like the MacBook Air offer storage limits.

b. Voice-to-Text will become ubiquitous: I use voice all the time and am pleased to see more and more people using it. Voice on the Mac has finally begun to catch up to Windows, iOS devices have Dragon Dictation and Vlingo and Android has voice input EVERYWHERE. It ain’t perfect but it is amazing how useful it can be. As the technology moves forward on all devices more and more people will come to rely on it. I see that moving forward in 2011 to a great extent.

Judie: 1.In 2010, I rediscovered my love for reading digital content — both magazines and eBooks, and my favorite gear included the devices that allowed me to do it comfortably and conveniently. Without a doubt for most of 2010 the iPad dominated as my favorite device, but recently the Samsung Galaxy Tab has completely usurped it due to its built-in camera, lighter weight and more portable size … plus the fact that the WordPress app actually works properly and allows me to snap a photo and upload posts to pending without accidentally posting. It’s a big deal to me, anyway. 😉

I think that the Tab has found my sweet spot; it’s small enough that I can always tuck it into even my smallest purse, yet its screen is large enough that I can comfortably use it for browsing and writing posts. The only caveat so far has been that a few of my favorite apps (cough cough — Zinio!) aren’t yet available for the Tab. Because AT&T has a straight-forward (and contract free) pricing structure, I went with their version, but unfortunately AT&T has the Tab locked down, which means that there are certain apps — such as eReader — that I can’t sideload. All this means is that I will be rooting the Tab soon.

My second favorite piece of gear is the new 11″ MacBook Air; this is the travel laptop I have always wanted! It fits perfectly in my bag, weighs next to nothing, and it doesn’t hurt anything that it looks nice, too.

2. The gear I am looking forward to in 2011 will be some of the obvious choices — the new iPhone and new iPad — I’m hoping that Dan is right, and that Apple will feel enough pressure to resist resting on their laurels. But I am also looking forward to seeing an HTC Android tablet, to seeing new Windows Phone 7 apps that will allow it to become more of a daily driver possibility, and I’m looking forward to trying out the next big “thing” — whatever it may happen to be.

2011 takes us one step further into the great unknown, and it will be fun to see what products are introduced, which devices will fall to the wayside, and which gadgets will still be considered necessities as we go forward.

But what about you? Why don’t you tell us …

1. What was your favorite gear of 2010 and why?

2. What gear are you looking forward to in 2011 and why?

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December 31, 2010 • Editorials

As 2010 Comes to an End We Ask: Was it a Good Year in Tech? And We Answer… Nope

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As 2010 comes to an end we ask… Was it a good year in tech? And we answer… Nope

Nope??? Nope! It was a great year in tech. That’s right. 2010 finally saw some of the key things we have been hoping for come to fruition.

iPad Baby!!

First and foremost 2010 gave us the iPad. The iPad wasn’t significant just because of what it did for Apple but because it finally showed that a tablet form factor can and will work… And be loved by consumers… if it  is done right.

Think about it for a minute–the iPad is the first generation device and yet it is fantastic. Yes, there are a few key elements to it that are lacking and that will likely be fixed in the upcoming iPad 2 of the product — such as the lack of a camera, but the device overall is as solid as you’re going to find. There were no major flaws revealed as consumers started using it. There was no iPad equivalent of AntennaGate. In fact there have been no major reports of issues that people have had with it. Yes, the iPad is a little bit on the heavy side if you’re going to be using it for reading, but many of us use it to read anyway. And no, it doesn’t do Flash, but HTML5 has been making that less and less of an issue.

Having been on the tablet/UMPC bandwagon since the early days of tablet devices, I have just about given up hope that there would ever be a mainstream tablet. All the devices are used rather underpowered or too heavy and hot. Then along came the iPad. Within a few days it became my “daily driver”. In fact, if I had to have only one device with me somewhere I suspect I would choose the iPad.

It’s hard to remember now that so many people thought it was just a big iPod Touch. Maybe it is in fact “Just a big iPod Touch” But apparently there is a serious market for this Big iPod touch and it has found an audience with everyone from über-geeks to Judie’s (and soon my) mom. That’s saying a lot.

And to think that when 2010 began, a tablet from Apple was still just part of the rumor mill.

Competition is GOOOD!

2010 was also good because it finally saw the possibility of Apple having some competition in the smart phone and tablet arena. I’m still not a huge fan of Android devices but having recently used the Nexus S for a few days I have to admit that it’s a solid device. In fact I have to admit that — gasp —  there’s nothing one could say about the device being bad. No, it doesn’t have the polish and finish of Apple’s offerings but it’s a good device and if I couldn’t have an iPhone needing to carry one of the current crop of android handsets would be far from a hardship. The hardware is decent and Android 2.3 really feels like a maturing platform. (Heck former Apple-fanboy LarryG has a Tab AND an Evo and could not be happier. And YES I did just write FORMER! 😆 )

Add in Microsoft’s Windows Phone and things are really moving in the handheld department.

Competition is a good thing, and 2010 finally saw the beginning of some competition directed at Apple and IOS. As a result, all of us will win as devices get better and better.

People Can Be Too Thin. Notebooks … Not So Much!

2010 was also amazing because it saw the first glimpse of the next generation designed for laptops. I owned the very first generation MacBook Air – in fact it arrived on the first day they were shipping, but I found it to be a huge disappointment. It was far too delicate, tremendously underpowered, and it was ridiculously overpriced.

Fast forward just a bit and … Wow. Thin is in and now there are few, if any, compromises to be made when choosing an Air. We just set up Elana’s new 11″ MacBook Air last night. She is using it as her main computer and could not be happier. For under $1000 she has a computer she can take just about anywhere and will do just about everything she needs it to do.

Many of us suspect the MacBook Air is the next-generation of Apple’s laptop design. It establishes some of the many design elements that I think we’ll be seeing in the years to come. It won’t be long before spinning drives are a thing of the past in portable computers. With capacity up, prices down, and effective cloud computing increasingly the majority of people don’t need 500 GB hard drives in their laptops. Solid-state drives allow computers to run quieter, cooler and faster. In the MacBook Air is the first line of computers that only comes with solid-state drives.

In addition, I have very little doubt that we’ll see an increasing number of computers dropping the optical drive built into them. The number of times that we need such the drive is less and less and on the occasions when we do need one using an external drive is certainly more than reasonable. This is especially so since not having the drive built-in means the computers can be smaller and lighter. Smaller and lighter 95% of the time certainly makes up for 5% of inconvenience.

Moreover Apple showed us that we really don’t need the optical drive with actions rather than words. The first MBA came with the OS reinstall on a DVD. To use it you needed an external drive or shared another computer’s drive. Not so with the new Airs. These came with tiny thumb drives instead and in so doing showed us that we really don’t need CDs and DVDs after all.

Shop ‘Til You Drop!

Which leads to the next innovation that we’ll look at–the Mac App Store. One could argue that this innovation really will belong to 2011 since it hasn’t gone live yet. We’ll include it here since it already points the way toward the next generation of computer applications and since new versions of old favorites such as iWork are said the be delayed ONLY so they can make their appearance in the App Store next month. As noted, the MacBook air shipped with a small USB thumb drive instead of optical drives for the operating system. The Mac App Store will make it even easier to forgo optical drives built into laptops. Apple’s iOS App Store has been a runaway success and we’ve already seen others jump on the bandwagon. The iOS App Store didn’t open in 2010 but it was in 2010 that it began to mature and finds its way onto more devices than just the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Can You Hear Me Now??

2010 was an awesome year in technology because, for the first time, using one’s voice instead of one’s keyboard began to hit the mainstream. I’ve been using Nuance’s voice products for years. On Windows Dragon NaturallySpeaking was quite good a few years ago. When I made the more to the Mac I was disappointed to find that there was no equal for OS X Sure there was a voice-to-text application but it wasn’t in the same league. MacSpeech Dictate got better but still wasn’t there. Then Nuance bought MacSpeech and released Dragon for Mac. There were some initial user issues with the software but a recent update has me able to dictate to my Air without a headset and with almost perfect recognition.

Add in the fact that as I tell people about DragonDictation for their iOS device I discover that more and more of them are already using it and it finally seems that it has gone mainstream… Or is poised to. Vlingo also brings some amazing voice tools to portable devices and, if you use an Android handset with 2.2 or later you can use voice in ANY input window. It still isn’t perfect but it is nothing short of amazing.

Voice has arrived and 2011 will see its use explode.

Invite Me for a Visit but I’m Not Moving In!

Finally 2010 saw streaming media and the services to deliver them finally begin to mature. The Roku box got a nice update, Apple TV went from content box to low-priced streamer, Google TV made an appearance… Kind of… And a host of services such as Netflix and Hulu found a huge and devoted audience. Apple is poised to take their North Carolina center online and may introduce streaming iTunes but we don’t even need it because 2010 saw services like rdio, Slacker, Pandora and more providing Internet radio and/or the ability to stream selected music to your handheld. Many will even cache some of your music locally.

Add in the maturation of Evernote and Dropbox and more and more of our content is truly stored, and safe, in the cloud.

Which leads to the final thought about 2010. It was, in so many ways, a watershed year for technology. Devices and services we have longed for finally came into the market place or matured significantly enough to become truly useful. More than that, however, many of these new technologies work together to maker each better and more useful. For example, the iPad has a maximum capacity of 64GB and the MacBook Air taps out at 256GB of storage. For many that isn’t enough space these days. But when I can stream more of my media to my iPad or my MBA whenever I have a data connection that becomes less of an issue. And now that I can selectively choose which Dropbox folders are synced locally and which are only on their servers but accessible whenever I need them I don’t need nearly as much local storage as I did a year ago.

Yes, 2010 was a huge year for tech… And I for one can’t wait to see what 2011 brings!

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December 31, 2010 • eBooks, Reviews

NOOKColor Morphs from Quiet Little eBook Reader to Killer Little Android Tablet

If you have been following along here at Gear Diary you probably have seen Carly’s review of the NOOKColor. The NOOKColor was noted as Barnes and Noble number one seller for the holiday season and it’s pretty easy to understand why. I am not really an eBook user and don’t often find myself reading too many books, but what I do enjoy is pretty much anything Android and the hardware that it runs on. So far you’ve seen what the $250 devices gets you, a full featured, beautiful color screen eBook reader powered by Android 2.1. It was not days after the new eReader hit the shelves, nookDevs’s along with some wizardry from XDA members, transformed the eBook reader into a full featured Android Tablet. The NookColor took over the role of not only an eBook reader, but also a really sweet Android tablet too. It takes some reading and a little SD card manipulation to make happen, but is rather simple if your familiar with Android or Linux.

The end results are simply amazing, you can basically run most Android apps from the market, watch movies, check email, twitter, Facebook, and anything else really that would do with an Android phone or tablet. The tablet is closely related to a Droid phone with a decent processor and graphics chipset. There is talk of Bluetooth being built-in to the CPU and the devs are looking into whether or not that can be turned on or not. Storage is cut down to the new partitioning, but you can always add as much memory as your want via the expandable SD storage. And finally the best part about it is that it doesn’t cost you another dime after the initial purchase of the device. I converted my Nook Color into a nice little tablet within hours of picking it up at the local Barnes and Nobles. Here’s how it all went down.

Disclaimer: Rooting your device will indeed void your warranty, with Root access you can manipulate the core OS files and potentially ruin your device. Gear Diary is not responsible for anything that happens to your device if you attempt this process. With that said, the Nook has a built-in failsafe, 8 failed boot ups and your device will revert back to factory condition with no signs of ever tampering with it. I take no credit for any of this work, I simply followed the forums and capitalized on everyone’s hard work. Support your developers and donate.

If you check out NOOKdevs or XDA there are a few great walkthroughs that make the conversion process go pretty seemless. You can use Linux, Mac, or Windows to do this and all result in the same outcome. I’m not going to walkthrough a step by step, but I wanted to give you an idea of what involved in the process. Basically on a Windows box, you need to download the modified image and put it on an external Micro SD card. The card only needs to be about 1GB and can be reformatted after the initial use to be used as normal expandable storage after the installation. Here are the basic steps of what needs to be done:.

  1. Startup your Nook and register it through the normal process, you must have a Gmail account for rooting, so it helps to use this one.
  2. either wait for the official 1.0.1 update to install automatically or manually do an upgrade. you must be on 1.0.1 before anything else is done
  3. insert modified SD card and turn on the Nook on (it doesn’t look like anything is happening but it is)
  4. After that’s done your Nook boots and you see the setup wizard as if it were the first time you setup and Android phone (skip through it)
  5. connect to WiFi and open YouTube, sign in to your YouTube channel
  6. Open the Android Marketplace, Accept terms, and start downloading your favorite apps
  7. Enjoy your new tablet

There are many other things that you can do and probably will do anyway once you get this far. Most of the common apps you will use are already installed for you which takes almost all of the manual labor out of it. The first thing I did was install ZEAM launcher which changed the homescreen to be more like a normal Android phone. This allowed for the changing of my background, adding new apps to the homescreen and launcher bar, and making a cleaner user interface. Included in the modified image is a softkeys app which gives you home, menu, back, and apps buttons since the Nook only has one button at the bottom of the screen. The original Nook functionality has not changed and I still have the original Nook menu and eBook apps. I can write fully say that I am completely happy with my $250 Android Tablet and have with me now pretty much wherever I go. I use my Android phone to tether when there is no wi-fi and now have a 7″ screen instead of my phone to work with. I can’t say enough how much I love this eBook reader!

Here is my current setup, which changes daily but you can see some of the stuff I have loaded. All these screen snaps were taken using the built-in Screenshot utility (press and hold “n” and Vol -)

Nook Home Screen “ZEAM Launcher”

Apps Drawer

Settings page

Android Marketplace

Opera Mini Browser in Landscape

Angry Birds

XDA Forums App

This is just a few of the many apps I have installed. Video encoded for iPod Touch (.mp4) work fantastic and fill most of the screen. If encoded in this format and at 800 X 480 there is no audio lag or skipping throughout the movie. Most games that I have downloaded work exceptionally well, I have not had a single graphics issues or lag with anything I’ve played so far. I did have a screen scaling issue with Asphalt5, but so far this has been the only game/app that has given me any problems. One thing to note about apps is that the device shows up on the Android Market as a LogicPD Zoom2. Some of the apps do not show up do to the footprint of the device, this is easily remedied by using Dropbox to send the .apk files directly to the device or using Appbrain to push them to the market. Some apps do not work as of now, but with the soon (I hope) addition of a clean 2.2 based Rom that should change.

One of the biggest things that worried me about this device was the battery. Battery life on most Android devices is not all that great, but with all the added functionality of the apps and graphics stress I assumed the worst when it came to battery. The NOOKColor battery is not (supposed) to be user replaceable so the possibility of extended battery is out of the question. I was so relieved to find out that after a few days use on the device, the battery life is absolutely amazing. I have never used a device short of my netbook that had such great battery life. There are a few scripts and directions on the forums that remove some unneeded services and claim to extend battery. What I love about this is that I can tap the power button and shut down the screen and leave it in “standby” overnight, and come back the next day and maybe have lost 1% of my battery. So if you’re wondering about battery life, it’s great.

So for now the Nook is my primary traveling or couch surfing tablet. I love the heavy metal and plastic casing, the beautiful color screen, and the overall feel of the device. It has already exceeded my expectations and will only get better as time goes on. The developers are updating things daily and more apps are added to the “working” list daily. If Bluetooth is possible then this could shape up to be a worthy little road warrior with a BT connected keyboard, GPS, or whatever else you find the need to attach to it. If you want to check out more than take a peek at the XDA NOOKColor Forums or head over to nookDevs. You can find all the information your curiosity desires and keep up on progress of a fully custom-built Rom for the device. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you want to know about any specific application running on this device. I wanted to mention also that I bought the Barnes & Noble Anti Glare screen protectors and absolutely love it. It’s an easy install and drastically reduces the fingerprints and glare on the glossy screen. Clarity drops a little bit but certainly not enough to bother me one bit.

Info Available Via Barnes and Noble, XDA Forums, and nookDevs

Update: It has been brought to my attention that B&N is sending out and update that kills the root access, from what I can see it from people who have rooted their device early on and have since gotten the 1.0.1 update. The forums and nookDevs process is already updated to fix this issue. So for now, it’s game on.

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December 17, 2010 • News

Dropbox Out of Beta… Adds Key Features


This year saw a number of key changes with regard to how I work on a computer and accomplish the many tasks that face me each day. Of course the iPad was central to the changes in my work style since, most days, I carry it instead of a laptop but I don’t think I would call the iPad “My Most Significant Change in 2010. No, I suspect that that title would go to… Dropbox.

Thomas turned me on to Dropbox toward the beginning of the year and I have grown increasingly reliant upon it. At first I used their limited free access to store a number of key files but I quickly saw the power of the service and increased my storage to 50 GB. I increased that even further when I began recommending the service to everyone I know and I now have 54 GB of storage available to me.

With the exception of financial documents I now keep all my pdfs, Pages documents and presentations in my Dropbox folder so that I can access them no matter where I am and regardless of what device I am using. Employing Dropbox in such a manner means that it no longer matters which computer or iOS device I am using. No matter which device I use to access my folder I know that I will always have the most current version of that file available to me. It is great for anyone who uses multiple devices. Moreover, as the year has unfolded more and more applications have begun using Dropbox to sync data between devices. In fact, I am not hard-pressed to use a text app on my iPhone or iPad that DOESN’T sync with Dropbox since that is the best way to backup my data AND access the current version as I move from one device to another.

Dropbox works SO WELL for me in fact that I didn’t even realize that the Mac client was still in Beta. It was… Until today. Today Dropbox came out of Beta and, in the process, added something whose significance is far greater than it might first appear- the ability to selectively sync folders.

With Dropbox 1.0 I can now choose which folders sync to which computer while having ALL my files and folders sitting on Dropbox’s servers. That means if I am using my 11″ MacBook Air with is relatively measly 128 GB of storage I no longer have to automatically sync some of the larger, but usually unused, folders to it. (And if you bought the base 11″ MBA with its 64GB of storage it is a MUST!!!) Instead, those folders will remain “in the cloud” and can be accessed via my browser when I need them. Or, if I want faster access to them at a later date, I can change preferences and have a previously unsynced folder begin to sync.

Selective Folder sync is only one of the new features. You can learn about all of them from the Dropbox Blog or you can just keep reading… I have included the relevant post in its entirety below…


Hey everyone!

We’re super excited to announce the new hotness that we’ve been cooking up for the past few months: Dropbox 1.0! In addition to hundreds (yep, hundreds) of bug fixes, vastly reduced resource usage (think of it as the Prius model of Dropbox), Dropbox 1.0 (“Rainbow Shell”) also offers support for extended attributes, selective sync, and a shiny new installation wizard. Those are just the CliffsNotes though — here’s the true story behind Dropbox 1.0:

Our highest quality yet – When you’re shipping software to millions of people, a problem that affects even 1 out of 10,000 is a big deal. And the most important feature of any file syncing software is that it just works. This release represents thousands of hours fixing problems people should never have to think about: invalid file names on Windows, weird Unicode normalizations, Word and Excel file locking, abnormal symlinks hierarchies, case sensitive file systems on Mac, TrueCrypt support, …the list goes on. Whether you’re using Dropbox for work, school, or play, we’re confident that today’s Dropbox offers the best file sync experience out there.

Huge performance enhancements – Dropbox 1.0 is strong enough to sync your entire digital life yet still lightweight and fast. We completely re-architected the client-side sync engine to optimize the response time, scale, and resource consumption. Keeping track of millions of files can require lots of memory if not done properly. This version reduces memory usage by up to 50%. It’s speedier and more efficient when handling big changes to your Dropbox while ensuring that smaller changes remain quick.

Better user experience – We’ve completely redesigned our initial setup wizard on all three platforms to make it easier to get started using Dropbox. The preference menus are more organized, intuitive, and snazzy. We’ve also rewritten our Mac OS X version to only use Cocoa so Dropbox looks and feels much more native on the Mac. This also brings down the Mac download size by 20%

Selective Sync – If you have a netbook or a computer with a tiny hard drive, syncing your entire Dropbox isn’t always a great idea. You also might not want certain files on your home computer to pop up on your work computer. Selective Sync solves these problems! You now can choose which folders get downloaded to which computers. This saves you time so you don’t have to sync stuff you don’t need. To learn more, head to our help center.

Extended Attribute Sync – Syncing resource forks have historically been a pain for Mac users. In case you don’t know, resource forks are a secret area of a file that certain applications (like Quicken, Quark, and OmniGraffle) use to store important data. Most sync programs today completely ignore these forks, which results in a corrupted file on the other end. But worry not! Resource forks and other extended attributes now work great with Dropbox. Hooray!

1.0 is a milestone for us, and with it we want to communicate our confidence that Dropbox is stable, high-quality software. The service has grown from a simple sync app to something that’s changed the way lots of people work and communicate. But just because this version of Dropbox has a new number doesn’t mean that we’re anywhere close to finished. We have a long way to go before we realize our goal of making it easy for everyone to always have access to their stuff. Stay tuned for more!

Huge thanks to our fanatical forum testers for all their help making this release happen!

And now, without further ado, go grab Dropbox 1.0!

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December 1, 2010 • News

How ‘Just a Big iPod’ Changed Our Computing Lives!

For the second time in two days I was giving a technical talk: one at night in a public setting, the other to a project team at work. In both cases I needed to note some questions, discussions, take contact info and jot down some ‘to do’ tasks and follow ups. It was only when someone said something in each case that I even realized – all I brought with me was my iPad.

It has been nearly 8 months since the release of the iPad, and I cannot imagine going anywhere without it. Through numerous discussions I know that many of the other Gear Diary folks feel the same way, so I wanted to get everyone together and ask the question:

How has the iPad changed your computing life?

Michael Anderson
I have been primarily a laptop user since getting a Powerbook 170 and ThinkPad 700C back in 1991/2, and have also been a heavy PDA user since I fell in love with the HP95LX in 1988 … but while I have always been a fan of mobile technology I really had no idea how the iPad would fit into things. I was very happy with my netbook – multiple hours of battery, basic PC usage and loads of games.

Some observations:

* The iPad has killed my PDA usage. The Droid did to an extent, but my PDAs always had an advantage in terms of keyboards, capabilities, etc. Not with the iPad!
* iPad as eReader: I have touted of reading books on PDA since the HP200LX. But once I used the various ebook apps on the iPad, it changed everything.
* The iPad killed the netbook for me. Not totally, as I have moved all gaming to my Alienware m11x, which relegated the netbook to classic gaming only … but since getting the iPad I have transitioned completely away from the netbook.
* With the keyboard dock and Docs2Go I am all set for all set for general office stuff, and with Safari and Mail, I have everything I need!

I was nervous at the first board meeting when I only brought the iPad, but by the end I was thrilled and never looked back. I take the iPad everywhere – I use iThoughts HD for ‘mind mapping’, which integrates with MindManager; Pocket Informant, and more!

I have actually lightened my load considerably when traveling home or between offices during the day. At this point I have transitioned to carrying only my iPad, Livescribe Pulse, a USB flash drive, and Droid around with me. And I have moved from the large Livescribe notebooks to the smaller ones, saving me even more space!

Having recently gotten a new iPod Touch, I am drooling at the upcoming iOS 4.2 for iPad. Take the existing system, add folders and multitasking … and I will be even more thrilled!

Dan Cohen
It’s funny. We started this thread a while back and, at the time, my answer was “the iPad has changed my computing life in so many ways.”. Here we are a fair bit later and that has only become more of the case. The iPad is impressive first and foremost because it is a first-generation device that was amazing right out of the gate. Sure there are things like a camera for video missing but the device itself is nothing short or remarkable. Moreover, I have been running iOS 4.2 Beta for weeks now and that upgrade turns the iPad into an entirely different device. The fast-app switching alone makes a huge difference in day-to-day use.

So how has the iPad changed my computing life?  Here are a few examples:

  • The iPad is my reading device. Period. I read eBooks, magazines… and everything else. I now have my staff send me electronic copies of everything because, quite honestly, I don’t want to hassle with paper. In fact, I have slowly been scanning in many of my notebooks and storing them in Dropbox so they are accessible on the iPad.
  • I rarely carry a notebook with me any longer. I got the MBA because I have a good bit of traveling coming up and there are some things, like posting, that are just that much easier on a notebook.
  • It is my meeting device. When I am in a meeting I use it to read the presentation’s I need to give. And when I want to share something with the group it turns into a whiteboard if there is a TV or monitor around.
  • It has become my TV more often than I ever expected thanks to Hulu Plus, my music player and my gaming device.
  • It has even become my speakerphone when I am working at home or in the office thanks to the Ooma app.
  • Then there is the article Carly wrote about how it has made its way into my rabbinic work. But that is a story unto itself.In other words, “Just a big iPod” has become “Just about everything” in ways i never expected.Judie Lipsett Stanford
    Random thoughts: I have been to two tech related conferences since getting my iPad — the NetShelter Summit in San Francisco and the ETS Lindgren Tech Day in Cedar Park — and both times all I brought was my iPad to each meeting. It is the best tool I have ever had for just about everything I need to do when trying to take notes and prepare posts, but for one thing …

    In a perfect world, the iPad would have a built-in camera and I would be able to photograph and post directly from it. You have no idea what that would mean to me for on the fly blogging with one less thing to carry. At least there is an SD attachment to allow photo uploading from my one camera that uses an SD; that is a help!

    I love reading books on it; my Amazon book list has continued to grow, but I love that I can also read my old eReader books on there as well. Zinio has allowed me to just about replace all of my dead-tree magazine subscriptions, with the exception of a few who need to get with the times (cough … cough Skeptic Magazine!). In a perfect world the iPad might be a little bit thinner or at least a little bit lighter, but it’s certainly not too heavy or too big for my purposes.

    The thing that blows my mind about the iPad is how almost everyone who sees one, who really gets a chance to use one, loves the thing. My husband has one, my mother even has one … and they both use the heck out of them, but in a totally different way than any of us use ours. The iPad is a totally customizable device that can be personalized for every user.

    I know the iPad is only going to continue to improve and become more functional. I honestly can’t imagine not having it along … anywhere!

    Jason Reese
    I just got back from deploying an ‘enterprise’ iPad solution to our Board of Directors in NY. To say the iPad has taken corporate users by storm is an understatement. The larger screen size meant that developers didn’t have to worry as much about trying to ‘mobilize’ the data that executives want. Instead of hefting around large binders of information prior to a Board of Director meeting, they now just use their iPads to securely log into a restricted SaaS web portal, and are able to view and annotate documents on the screen.

    Then there’s the ripple effect. Now, everyone wants an iPad to do the same — and leave those ‘heavy’ laptops (or even netbooks) at their desk while they attend meetings or travel. That, in turn, has driven up demand for business apps to make the iPad even more of a regular work tool than it is already.

    Add in iOS 4.2, and you’ve just thrown multitasking and wireless printing straight into the mix. Our Board — and our CIO — are loving the iPad. And that means everyone else is loving it internally 😉

    Finally loaded 4.2 on iPad yesterday since our team is on the enterprise dev program. No big ‘news’ that you don’t know…multitasking’s there, folders (for Doug:) and the printing are all there. Gave up my iPhone and am using iPad as my only Apple device, besides an MPB.

    Doug Moran
    I haven’t really had it long enough to say how it has changed my computing life, but I do know a few things:

  • PvZ is ‘way more fun on it.
  • I much prefer reading books on the iPad to the iPhone, even though it’s less “portable” in an absolute sense—after all, you can tuck your iPhone in your pocket. But having all that text on one virtual page is a different experience.
  • Took it to a meeting and used it with my BT keyboard to take notes—much easier than trying to undock my T-61, and then re-dock it. 1 time out of four, re-docking screws things up. With an iPad, no worries.
  • Makes HiDef make sense. Didn’t see the point in HiDef on my iPhone; on the iPad, the difference is (literally and virtually) huge.
  • Some apps work better on the iPad than on the Web, Twitter being one. Also IM+.
  • Using it for movie/TV viewing on the plane (with the Compass stand) was every bit the delight I had been hoping for. So rare when the reality matches the wish—this was one of those times.I find myself using my iPhone way less. If I could txt from the iPad, I could probably replace my iPhone with some dumb phone. You know; one that just makes phone calls?
  • I might add that the combination of Netflix streaming and the iPad is uhMAZing. I think our queue is up around 200 now—I can’t believe I’ve watched so many movies in my life.

    In this vein:

    Magazines. I haven’t signed up for any yet, but I’ve come close—and no doubt will do it in the future. And this is actually a pretty big deal, because I pretty much stopped reading magazines a decade ago and just read stuff on the Web. If magazines can make the transition smoothly—and there are definitely going to be some mags that lend themselves to iPad reading ‘way more than others—the magazine market might stop shrinking. Ditto the newspaper industry, but not to the same degree—I envision us ending up more like other countries, where there’s one (or two or three) national virtual newspapers, and then a whole slew of local papers that basically ignore national news and only do local stuff. I’d pay for the app; I’d pay for a subscription.

    I’m also considering reading comic books again, which I have done for more than two decades (with a few very rare exceptions, such as Mark Millar’s “Wanted”). How many geek adults might do the same thing?

    Chris Gavula
    I have been working with my iPad for a number of months now and I’m amazed how much it has changed the way I do my computing. Like Doug said, I use the data features of my iPhone less than before, but more importantly, I use my laptop somewhat less than before, but I haven’t abandoned my laptop either.

    I find web browsing on the iPad generally easier and more satisfying than on the computer. Why? Pinch/Zoom. The ability to quickly, and intuitively zoom in on areas and pictures that might initially be difficult to see or read clearly has been wonderful. The fact that I can quickly easily check eMail or the status of things on a given website just before I go to bed, without having to haul out the laptop is wonderful. All that said – I have at least one website I visit that utilizes flash (although they could easily have done something different). I wish that Apple had allowed Flash – even if it is doggy and badly implemented. Many sites are converting away from it, but many are not yet doing so. It will be interesting to see where all this ends – especially now that Apple has relented on the “no conversion from Flash” apps rule, but I wish they’d resolve all this more quickly!

    I guess the larger point is that I often use my iPad in situations where I might want to use a laptop or desktop but it just isn’t convenient. But the iPad is VERY convenient. I think this is the biggest change in the way we compute that I see happening in my own life.

    Another area in which my iPad has become a daily staple is in eBook reading. Some people have expressed an opinion that the iPad is too heavy for long-term eBook reading. While I feel the iPad is solid, and is likely to lose weight as subsequent versions come out, I do not find the unit to be too heavy at all. To me it just feels solid and durable. I have many of my Cisco technical books and language study on it and they are MUCH lighter to carry this way. I primarily use the Kindle app and the iBooks app for eBook reading. I have considered a Kindle device in the past, but it’s lack of backlighting and color have made it pretty much a non-starter for me. I have too much material that is more functional in color and I read far more in low-light situations than bright light situations. For these reason, as well as being able to access nearly any eBook source I want, the iPad is nearly an ideal eBook reader for me. Amazon has the best eBook store with the greatest depth though!

    Gaming is another area I really have found the iPad to be a pleasure. The aforementioned “Plants vs. Zombies” is great on the iPad. I also prefer time-management or strategy type games (like the Sims, or Civilization) to action-based games so, for me, the iPad is preferable to devices like the Nintendo DS or the PSP where a control pad is present. The iPad (and iPhone/iPod Touch) don’t lend themselves well to action, platform, or fighting type games so it may not appeal to young guys who tend to prefer these types of game, but for me that’s almost a non event.

    I also appreciate the USB/card adapters, but I do wish they’d go ahead and incorporate it into the device. I’d also like to see a camera in it.

    So the iPad has definitely changed how I go about my computing. I can’t completely abandon my laptop (it is a secure unit utilizing technologies not available on the iPad yet), but other than my work-specific requirements, I find myself turning to the device more and more and using it in situations where I would have “waited” to perform computing tasks before. It fits in nicely between my laptop and my iPhone (a netbook was never a reasonable option for me – too many compromises). It goes almost everywhere with me and has significantly changed how I go about my daily computing tasks. People ask me about it all the time (it’s still a novelty to many people). When I’m in an Apple store it’s the iPad area that always seems to have the most activity. Yes, the novelty will wear off and yes the market will saturate, but it is amazing to me that people are paying a premium price for this device and it’s conveniences, but I definitely understand why too!

    So there you have some ways that the iPad has changed the ways we go about our daily lives. Many of us have others in our lives touched by the iPad as well. Over Thanksgiving my brother-in-law traveled with just the iPad, and was able to do pretty much everything with it, except for one site that had some Flash he needed my laptop to navigate.

    iOS 4.2 has recently arrived, and aside from the debate on the rotation lock, it seems that everyone is completely enamored by the changes, as they make the iPad even more useful and autonomous.

    So, how has the iPad changed the way YOU do things? Let us know in the comments!

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    September 27, 2010 • News

    iPad and iPhone App Update- Dropbox-Powered Elements 1.1


    I’m using DropBox more and more these days, thanks to a recommendation from Thomas a number of months ago. One of the key apps on my iPad that makes Dropbox even more powerful is Elements. The universal app lets you use Dropbox as a note-taking application on any iOS device; it is a great way to take notes on the go and ALWAYS know exactly where to find them.


    When Larry first recommended the app to me, it was good… but extremely limited. You could make notes and do some minimal formatting, but that was it. Now Elements has been updated to version 1.1 and it is even better. This first major update brings…

    The ability to delete files within Elements

    The ability to rename files within Elements

    The ability to sort files by name and creation date

    The ability to search the contents your Elements files

    A new list view when using Elements on your iPad.

    A new, easier to use, user interface

    The update also brings some bug fixes and refinements that all add up to a good productivity app being even better. And this is just version 1.1!

    Elements is $4.99 in the App Store. If you already use Dropbox it is one of the Must-Have iOS apps in my opinion. If you don’t use Dropbox yet it is worth a look.

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    September 23, 2010 • News

    Apple Updates Keynote, Numbers, and Pages for iPad – Definitely Worth Getting!

    If you ask anyone what their biggest complaint was about the iWork apps on the iPad (Keynote, Numbers, and Pages), for many it would be the lack of a simple way to interact with Microsoft Office files and a limited ability to get files on and off the iPad. With a new update to all three applications, those issues are fixed – as are many more!

    MacRumors has a run-down of the features:

    – Export presentations to Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT) format.
    – Copy presentations between Keynote and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
    – Support for audio in builds when importing Keynote ’09 presentations.
    – Ability to group and ungroup objects.
    – Add animated builds to grouped objects.
    – Lens Flare, Spin and Wipe build animations.
    – Revolving Door, Swoosh and Wipe slide transition animations.

    – Export spreadsheets to Microsoft Excel (.XLS) format.
    – Copy spreadsheets between Numbers and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
    – Ability to group and ungroup objects.
    – Open CSV files from Mail and other apps.

    – Copy documents between Pages and your MobileMe iDisk or a WebDAV service.
    – Option to display the word count for your document.
    – Support for opening .txt files from Mail.
    – Ability to group and ungroup objects.
    – Import and export existing footnotes, endnotes, sections and tables of contents.
    – Import and export Pages ’09 tables with image background fills in cells.

    I took a bit of time and played around and found that each offered many improvements but still had plenty of room to be better:

    • Pages – the added file format support is great, as are the online access options and things like word count. It isn’t new, but having the ONLY arrow-key support is also great! Wish there was DropBox support, and apparently there are some lingering PDF export issues.
    • Numbers – I have always found Numbers ‘funky’ on the Mac, being a heavy Excel user. I like having much improved Excel supportI don’t like having to double-tap to just enter numbers in a sheet, and Numbers STILL doesn’t recognize the arrow keys on my keyboard dock!
    • Keynote – I have only used this for on-device work, and import/export, and found it more polished than ever. However I have read that there is a lot of work still needed in the presentation mode.

    I don’t want to get into a side-by-side comparison with other iPad office suites, but just to note that Documents to Go just added full keyboard support across all products – which makes the absence in Numbers even less excusable! QuickOffice – which looked competitive when it first arrived, now looks quaint compared to the others.

    Are these worth buying? That depends on how much you use their Mac app equivalents. Like I said, I am an Excel user, so I prefer the Sheet to Go interface – but an iWork user should be quite at home. I would also have preferred broader online integration, but at least a move in that direction is welcome.

    These iPad-only apps is still priced at $9.99 each. You can get more info on the iTunes App Store for Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

    Source: MacRumors

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    August 21, 2010 • Editorials

    Larry and Dan Serve Up Gear Chat #15

    In Gear Chat #15 Larry and Dan talk about their experience with the Magic Trackpad (one kept it, one sent it back), chat about the current Apple hardware rumors and more…

    Elements app for Dropbox ($4.99)  Get it HERE.
    Fastever ($1.99) Get it HERE.
    TextExpander Touch ($4.99) Get it HERE.
    Train Conductor 2 ($.99) Get it HERE.
    Intro Music- Lean On Me- Sounds From the Ground Solarstone’s Chill Out Remix… (

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    August 17, 2010 • Editorials

    I Reviewed It and Still Use It, the Dan-Edition


    We were having a conversation among the site’s editors last week with regard to items that we reviewed. It’s one thing to use an item for a few days or a week or two (which is the average) and quite another thing to use it for a month or two or three. There are times when an item looks great in the initial review but then there are some issues that arise with it down the line. Of course, if there’s any radical change in our perception of an item after using it for a while we will update the post or write another one, but it does beg the question — what items have we reviewed here on Gear Diary and, weeks and months later, continue to use. Which is the reason for this new series —

    I Reviewed It, and Still Use It.

    A good percentage of the things I use on a daily basis right now are items that I reviewed here on the site. Some were sent as review units and the companies were kind enough to allow me to use them for an extended period of time in order to really get a sense of the item and others are things that I personally bought for daily use. There are so many of them that I reviewed and still use that, for this inaugural I Reviewed It and Still Use It post I’m only list a few. There will be other (so by no means are the items I’ll mention here the only ones) and I look forward to reading about the items other team members reviewed and still use in the weeks to come.

    The Padster Original


    I love this bag. I love the fact that it’s designed specifically for my iPad but it’s also large enough to carry some additional items. I love the fact that it does not look like a MURSE. I love the fact that the flap that goes over the opening is not secured so that it’s easy to access what’s inside but the main compartment has a zipper so that everything can be enclosed and secured when needed. I like the look of the bag and I like the feel of the bag and I also love the way it’s designed which actually fits in with my work style quite well. There is just enough organization on the interior of the bag for me to put some of the key items I always carry and know exactly where they are. In addition, there are zippered areas on both the front and the back for those things I may need to stash momentarily but have access to at a moments notice.

    So why is this bag is something that “I reviewed and still use”? Because it is aesthetically pleasing and functionally top notch. Oh, and one other reasons- every few days Elana looks at it and says “Have I told you I love this bag?” She has fantastic taste so the bag MUST be nice. (I love her but no, she can’t have it.)

    Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300


    I am doing my best to go paperless these days. This is especially the case since I got the iPad and I’m slowly scanning as much of my library and files as possible. Especially since I now use Evernote and Dropbox I feel secure in the fact that my documents are backed up and accessible across all of my devices. Mix in the fact that even if a document isn’t directly on my iPad I can quickly pull it down from the cloud and it just so much simpler to have everything in electronic form. To do that you need a good scanner. And I love this particular Fujitsu scanner. I have an older and larger version of it that can handle up to 50 sheets at a time but I find myself going to this particular model more often than not. It’s small, easy to use, fast, makes beautiful electronic versions of documents and best of all it’s highly portable. I don’t even need to plug it in since it is bus powered when the need arises.

    In addition, I find the reliability of this particular scanner to be superb. I’ve used it quite a bit and it looks and functions as if it were brand-new. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

    JHAudio JH5 Custom In-Ear Monitors


    Most of the time I want a headset that has an in-line microphone ( I love my Etymotic HF2s) since I might be listening to music one minute and either making a phone call, using DragonDictation or making some sort of voice note the next. But there are times when I simply want to listen to music and on those occasions I love using these custom made headphones that I reviewed at the beginning of the summer. They sound incredible they are remarkably comfortable and they’re simply a pleasure to listen to. Yes, as I said in my review, they are a bit on the pricey side but they sound fantastic.

    Eos Converge Multi-room Wireless Audio System


    I reviewed the Eos Converge Multi-room Wireless Audio System when my house was still under construction. As a result I tried it out in a temporary was in those rooms that actually had power. (Most didn’t at the time… don’t ask…) We are still under construction but our rooms now have power… and the master bath is finally done (almost). As a result I am really making use of the system and love it. The speakers that are part of the system are on the other side of my home study so the sound is fuller and richer than if they were right there staring me in the face.


    And the Eos Portable Stereo Wireless Speaker/receiver sits hidden in the new cabinetry in the master bath. Open the cabinet, turn it on and the music flows. And thanks to the iPhone Remote app, my iTunes account on the iMac downstairs is fully accessible. It is awesome.

    The list could go on and on but I’ll stop here for now. But we’re just getting started because a lot of the things that we’ve reviewed… all of us still use.

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    July 25, 2010 • Reviews

    The Alphasmart NEO: The Ultimate Draft Writing Tool

    Alphasmart Neo

    Alphasmart NEO Portable Electronic Keyboard

    It has a full-size keyboard so it is definitely not pocketable and a sports a 5.75″ x 1.5″ Mono Liquid Crystal display which shows a “generous” 2 to 6 lines of type. It has a whopping 512K memory. It runs on 3 AA batteries. It has no ability to connect to the internet. Finally, to get “all this,”  you’ll have to pay a little more than half the price of a bargain Netbook.

    No, you haven’t just accidentally stumbled on a review from the Gear Diary Archives. This amazing little piece of retro tech is currently available… and it just might be one of the best digital tools a writer could have. Let me introduce you to… the Alphasmart NEO.

    The NEO is an electronic keyboard that was created by Alphasmart, a company originally formed by ex-Apple Employees. Their goal was to create rugged devices to teach keyboarding and writing in schools. They have since been bought by Renaissance Learning and are now part of a suite of learning and teaching tech that count 65,000 K-12 schools in the US as clients. The idea seems to have been to create something rugged and without the distractions of a full computer or, later, the internet. The NEO does one thing and one thing only—it is a typewriter with electronic paper. Oh, and it is not actually aimed at the consumer market. In other words, it was intended for educational settings.

    A funny thing happened on the way to the Education vertical marketplace, though. Writers started discovering the NEO. And they loved them! And before long a small consumer side-business now called NEO Direct was created.

    So what exactly is the NEO?

    The NEO is basic. And that is it’s appeal. It has a full-size keyboard with generous, well spaced, comfortably beveled keys. Even though they aren’t spring-mounted the travel and feel of the keys is excellent with each key press producing a satisfying, but not-too-loud, click. The NEO is not the only device out there that does electronic keyboarding, but there is nothing that comes close to the feel of this keyboard that I have found.

    The NEO is instant on. Turn it on and the NEO flashes a system screen with a battery meter and you are immediately placed right where you were in your document the last time you used the NEO. Rather than opening a file manager and selecting from a list if files the NEO uses 8 file spaces which are directly accessed by pressing one of 8 keys along the top of the keyboard.  It is fast, quick and takes little or no thought. In fact, everything about the NEO seems oriented to get and keep you writing rather than paying much attention to the computer. There are some tweaks you can perform (that’s for another post) but out of the box, it is a lean, green writing machine.

    The NEO’s screen is small. With the included font choices, you can have between 2 and 6 lines per screen. There are some alternative fonts available which can get you up to 11 lines but good (superb) eye-sight is required for those. The screen has no back lighting, but the contrast is sharp enough that you can use it in almost any light.

    Enlargement of NEO screen with 5-Line Font

    The NEO’s word processing software is simple. The software, Alphaword Plus,  includes a spell check, a thesaurus, and all the basic functions like copy and paste and keyboard cursor movement commands, but other than that it is basic. Keep in mind that this is by design, the goal is to get and keep you typing.  To make things even simpler, there is actually no need to “save” files. Instead, your work is saved keystroke by keystroke as you type. The  3 AA batteries provide a whopping 700 hours without changing and an internal lithium cell preserves memory even when changing batteries. This means you can take this little writing tool anywhere… even far away from civilization.

    The NEO has limited connectivity. There’s no WiFi and no Bluetooth on the NEO, but there are several ways to move files from the NEO to your computer.

    The easiest and most efficient way is to connect the NEO via USB, open up any program that handles text (including, say, a text box in a forum) and hit the send button.  The NEO then literally shoots whatever file is open on it to the text area that is currently in focus on the computer, letter by letter, and very rapidly. These days I keep all my writing files in Dropbox so when I write something on the NEO I simply shoot the text into a file on Dropbox. This makes the new text  instantly available on all my computing devices. (As a side note, the NEO will also act as a keyboard for any computer to which it is connected).

    Another way to transfer text is to use a desktop application called NEO Manager (formerly Alphasmart Manager). It allows you to copy and paste an entire file into another app, as well as copy and paste text to the NEO. I rarely use this since I am generally only going one direction (NEO to computer) and the prior “Send” is so much easier.  (Side note…  NEO Manager does not yet support 64-Bit Windows, but that is expected maybe in the Fall.)

    Finally, you can use IR to beam files if you have another device, like an old Palm TX or older Nokia, with an IR sensor.

    You can supposedly print directly from a NEO to a USB printer, but I have never had much success.

    Neo's Ports

    The ports available on the back of the NEO

    What the NEO does and doesn’t do.

    The NEO can be used in many ways, but ideally it is a draft writer. The reason it is beloved by writers is that it provides the single focus of a typewriter in something very light and portable, which also has digital output. With the NEO there is no computer interface you need to wrestle with which means there is no internet… or media… or games to pull you off task. You don’t even have to watch a battery meter. There is just the writer and a flow of words. At its best, the NEO isn’t even there. And since it is on instantly if you are struck by inspiration you are good to go.

    The NEO is not an editing machine. Personally, for editing, I want a big monitor with two pages on the screen at once. When I have my editing hat on, I need to see the big picture. Short of spell checking a document, you are not going to want to do much editing or even formatting on a NEO since it is like viewing your words through a keyhole. The screen gives you just enough to keep your thoughts going or remember what was going on when you left off, but not much more without a lot of scrolling. Editing isn’t its forte, but  for getting words flowing out of your head and onto the electronic paper, there is nothing like a NEO.

    Neo in Hand

    The NEO is light weight.

    Why a NEO?

    Why pay about $170 for a NEO when you can get a full Netbook for about $300, sometimes less? If you have to ask, then you probably don’t need or want a NEO. The NEO is defined as much by what it strategically can’t do as by what it does so well. If your main goal is to be productive at writing, this wonderful machine may help. If you have tried to write a novel but found yourself surfing the internet more than writing, you will appreciate the way in which the NEO can let you write distraction-free. While the NEO doesn’t fit in a pocket, the combination of being very light weight (1.75 pounds), very durable and having long battery life means you can take the NEO with you anywhere and use it at a moment’s notice.

    By the way, if you don’t like the green, you can get a NEO 2 in charcoal (I did). They don’t show the NEO 2 on the consumer website (it can be found on the Renaissance Learning K-12 website) but if you ask they will sell you one at the same price. There is no functional difference between the NEO and NEO 2 for the individual. The difference has to do with the way the NEO 2 is used in a fully rigged classroom teaching lab. The two models even have the same user manual.  [It is worth noting that all the pictures here are of my NEO 2.]

    So why the NEO? Simple! I’m a firm believer that work goes better with the right tools. I’m willing to pay for a quality, task specific tool even if a Swiss Army Knife might do the job too. For draft writing, the NEO is the right tool… at a premium price.

    The Alphasmart NEO is available from NEO Direct.

    MSRP: $169

    What I Like: light weight; instant on; long battery life (700 hours); very comfortable typing

    What Needs Improving: Not much, but Bluetooth as an option to both connect for file transfer and to act as a keyboard would be fantastic; a media card slot for backup on the road would be handy

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    June 22, 2010 • Editorials

    Apple iPad Sales Top 3 Million Units- Surprised? Not!

    Apple - iPad - View photos and images of iPad-1.jpg

    Apple just announced that it has sold over 3 million units in just 80 days. That is… remarkable. (It is almost as remarkable as Apple getting over 600,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4. And, no doubt, that number would be even higher if Apple hadn’t run out of the first run.)

    As Sir Stevo notes-

    People are loving iPad as it becomes a part of their daily lives. We’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more people around the world, including those in nine more countries next month.

    So why is the iPad such a hit? (At least beyond the obvious fact that it is a first generation device that is rock solid and most who try it agree is awesome?) Two main reasons come to mind. And those reasons are… the apps and the user base.

    Apple - iPhone - Learn about apps available on the App Store.jpg

    The Apps-

    When the iPhone first came out, Steve Jobs was clear that part of what made the iPhone great was its almost complete lack of buttons. While some screamed about the virtual keyboard, Jobs was clear that the lack of a physical keyboard was one of the phone’s features, not a flaw. It was key, he said, because it meant that future developments for use on the device would not be limited by having to work around the physical set up of buttons. In other words, the iPhone was like a Rorschac inkblot that could become almost anything a developer wanted it to be.

    And this has proven to be true.

    The lack of a keyboard meant that a few enterprising developers found ways to let you hold the iPhone in landscape and, as a result, type on a far larger screen. It also meant that an OS update made this landscape feature global to the device. It meant developers were not limited on the kind, number or placement of a game’s controllers. It was all open and flexible thanks to the controls always being virtual controls. And once OS 2.0 was released, the sky was the limit. Over time the iPhone has become everything from a credit card reader to a flashcard study tool to a GPS. The more creative the developers, the more impressive the iPhone became.

    The iPhone is so impressive now that it is hard to remember how apps only came into being by year 2, cut and paste and stereo Bluetooth only came in year 3, and multitasking and folders only came… YESTERDAY. And all because the iPhone was a powerful computing device with few hardware limitations to hamstring it.

    The same goes with the iPad. When it was introduced 80 days ago, it was able to run iPhone apps but they were either small or looked horribly pixelated. Yes there were some apps developed specifically for the iPad, but they were somewhat unimpressive. Less than three months later the iPad now has over 11,000 apps designed specifically for it. And as more and more apps come out the iPad becomes more flexible and more powerful than ever. As a result it quickly becomes personalized to you and your needs/uses. Let me explain what I mean by that.

    I have a friend who loves using the iPad almost exclusively as a media consumption device. They read eBooks using iBooks, read the NYTimes using the Time’s Editor’s choice app, listen to music using the iPod app or Pandora and watch video using either the video app or the ABC streaming app. They love the device but, really see it and use it in the same manner you might use an iPod touch. AND they are totally satisfied with their purchase.

    I, on the other hand, use the device in a host of additional ways. Yes, I use my iPad as a media consumption device — using those type apps and more — but I also use it as a laptop replacement thanks to some amazing apps that have been released. Among the key apps for me are Documents To Go, LogMeIn ignition (for accessing and using my iMac), ToDo, Bento, Dragon Dictation, Evernote and DropBox. Each of these leverage the power of the iPad in a different manner and, thanks to the dearth of buttons the app is limited to the developer’s creativity (and Apple’s heavy handedness of course).

    The point is, MY needs for the iPad are different than MY FRIEND’S needs, but thanks to the various apps that are available it serves BOTH our needs equally well.

    And as more and more apps are released the iPad becomes more powerful, more flexibly, and more appealing to a larger and larger number of people.

    And That Leads Us To The User Base…

    I love my iPad. It fulfills the hopes I had for UMPC/Origami devices (which ended us pretty much sucking), it lets me get serious work done on the go in a device that weighs only 1 1/2 pounds, has over 10 hours of runtime, is pretty much always connected thanks to WiFi and 3G, and it even had a GPS for navigation and location awareness. I use it all the time and pretty much take full advantage of its power and utility. And I’ll be so bold as to say that is true for everyone who writes for Gear Diary and has an iPad. We love the thing. That’s saying a whole lot since all of us are pretty hardcore tech users who aren’t easily satisfied with our gadgets preferring, instead, to push them to the limit and highlight the shortcomings. For us to like our iPads as much or more now than we did then is saying a lot.

    But tech-geeks don’t make a hit product. Sure, we can help promote a product, but while there are a lot of us who are gadget obsessed there aren’t nearly enough of us to make a product take off and take over. It takes people who are less enthusiastic about, and experienced with, gadgets adopting it to make it take off. And that is exactly what is happening.

    The winner of the iPad Judie gave away let me know that she just had a flood and her laptop was fried. She wrote to let me know that she would have been more freaked out, except for the fact that she has the iPad she won and is using it most of the time already. Thing is, she reads the site but is, admittedly, NOT a techie. But there is more…

    My father-in-law took an iPad to China with him last month. I made a deal before hand. I bought it and “lent it to him” for the 2 weeks. If he liked it he would buy it from me and if he did not like it I would take it back. It was a no-risk deal for him. And a week into the trip Elana and I got an email from my mother-in-law saying, “He loves this… thing.” They have been back for two weeks or so. I asked him yesterday if he is still using it and he said, “Oh yeah, I’m on it at least once or twice a day and I love it. It is definitely the right device for me.” (Side note, the guy is an engineer but he always had Elana check his email for him- now he can do it himself.)

    So that’s one more device… or make that three… and counting.

    They went to China with Elana’s Aunt Lynn and Uncle Phil. Phil’s iPad arrives tomorrow. And then we were with family friends for Father’s Day this Sunday, and now at least two of those people are now buying them. And my sister and her kids are coming to the lake for the weekend, and I have NO DOUBT their household will be getting one the week after.

    Even Judie’s moms getting into the act. She was trying out Judie’s earlier today and was impressed. No doubt she’ll be the next in line for an iPad… Assuming Judie can find one for her since they are still sold out in her area.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying… the device appeals to Tech-lovers and non-techies alike and, as a result, has the potential to appeal to EVERYONE. It is that universal appeal, and the ability of techies to “sell it” to non-techies who in turn become “iPad ambassadors” that is making the device go viral in a way no prior device has.

    Put those two items together- the power of apps to make the device usable to anyone depending on their unique interests and needs and the ability of the device to appeal to everyone from techie to pencil-pusher and what do you get??? Three million sold in 80 days… and counting…

    The full release follow…

    Apple Sells Three Million iPads in 80 Days

    CUPERTINO, California—June 22, 2010—Apple® today announced that it sold its three millionth iPad™ yesterday, just 80 days after its introduction in the US. iPad is a revolutionary and magical product that allows users to connect with their apps, content and the Internet in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.

    “People are loving iPad as it becomes a part of their daily lives,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We’re working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more people around the world, including those in nine more countries next month.”

    Developers have created over 11,000 exciting new apps for iPad that take advantage of its Multi-Touch™ user interface, large screen and high-quality graphics. iPad will run almost all of the more than 225,000 apps on the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone® or iPod touch®.

    Users can browse the web, read and send email, enjoy and share photos, watch HD videos, listen to music, play games, read ebooks and much more, all using iPad’s revolutionary Multi-Touch user interface. iPad is 0.5 inches thin and weighs just 1.5 pounds—thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook—and delivers up to 10 hours of battery life.*

    *Battery life depends on device settings, usage and other factors. Actual results vary.

    Apple ignited the personal computer revolution with the Apple II, then reinvented the personal computer with the Macintosh. Apple continues to lead the industry with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system, and iLife, iWork and professional applications. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.

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