2008
10.29

Where To Buy?

In order to get your favorite tech goodies, you have to either buy them or get them gifted to you. Since the latter is a hit-and-miss affair, the former is usually the solution, and since the former required money, shaving dollars off the price of your beloved <insert gadget here> is a very, very good thing. Here are a few sites, whether for buying directly, for comparing prices or for just hunting out the best deals, that make the shopping process a good one.

Price Comparison Sites like Google Product Search, Nextag, Pricegrabber and ShopZilla are probably the most obvious first step for a savvy shopper when deciding where to get a shiny new gadget. The above sites are unbiased, and aggregate pricing from dozens of online stores under one virtual roof so you can figure out who has the best price, including shipping and tax, on Gadget X (which will almostinvariabley be different than a similar search for Gadget Y).

You may also want to check out Epionions for reviews of the product you want to buy; the community there is rather long-winded but the reviews, coupled with price comparisons, really help. Last but not least, make sure to check into the reputation of the online seller you want to buy from; some are outright scams. I’ve found that the best site for this is ResellerRatings.com, with BizRate also being a good option.

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2008
10.28

Get News Here

You may be wondering where I get my tech news, so you can more of the technology goodness than I provide. In answer to this question, I consume much of my tech news in podcast form. I also peruse a few specialty sites that don’t really have podcasts. Between the podcasts and the websites, I get enough current, coherent and even interesting tech news to pass on to interested readers…

For podcasts, This Week In Tech is one of the “netcast” networks I somehow find time to listen to, with emphasis on the podcast of that name, Security Now , Windows Weekly and Macbreak Weekly . The shows are long but informative, providing not only news but also insight into the tech industry. Plus, it’s a great excuse for not getting other work done. Buzz Out Loud and other CNET podcasts are good sources of information, news, reviews, etc. The CNET TV site is also a good recourse; the videos are prentiful, concise and in HD. Finally, TekZilla , by Revision3 , is another good video resource (also available in HD) for news, reviews, tips, tricks and other lovely tech info.

My list of pure-text websites that I visit is shorter and more specialized to a given topic. NotebookReview deals with mobile computers, PhoneScoop is a cell phone information site, and DSLReports keeps me up to date on everything related to internet service, hence my coverage of Comcast, Qwest and the like.

So if you ever want to check out tech news using the same outlets that I do, you should now know exactly where to look.

2008
10.24

It’s Saturday and there’s more news in the tech field. Here are some particularly interesting, or at least notable, stories:

The Backberry Bold , the feature-rich 3G device from Research In Motion (RIM) will be released on AT&T’s network on November 4th. The price will be $299 with contract. Unlike the Verizon Blackberry Storm, this phone will have a keyboard and, I’m pretty sure, no touch screen.So basically you’re looking at a modern version of your typical Blackberry, which is a good thing.

A few days ago, Apple announced in its earnings call that it has sold over 10 million iPhones this year alone, surpassing RIM to become the 3rd biggest phone manufacturer in the world, by measure of revenue. That’s a lot of iPhones.

In other phone introduction news, Sprint is releasing the HTC Touch Pro on the 26th at Best Buy stores, and the 2nd at all other outlets, including online.The phone, successor to the HTC Mogul Pocket PC phone (on which I’m typing this article) has a slide-out keyboard, high-speed data access and a 3 megapixel camera. It runs Windows Mobile 6.1 plus some HTC enhancements, and will be prices at $300 after a rebate and with a new contract, which will have to include a data plan in order to get the phone. I’ll be upgrading sooner or later, though it may not be for a bit…my next phone upgrade is due late next semester. This is despite the operating system, which has been compared with a Soviet-era tank in the face of the iPhone.

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2008
10.22

Mac vs. PC

It’s what seems to be an age-old question: get an Apple computer or don’t? From the perspective of a person who spent a ton of money on Macs recently 9and who is writing this article on an aluminumiMac), and otherwise has used PCs, here are the points of contention, with notebook computers as the focus:

Design – Yes, PC makers’ new designs are getting better and better, but Apple takes the cake here, generally speaking. Appearance may be a matter of taste, in which entrants from Dell, HP and evenLenovo (fka IBM) may win, but design also includes build quality, where Apple handily wins against all but the most business-focused of the PC line. Aesthetics also translate into performance improvements of sorts; the newMacbooks, due to their aluminum unibody construction, are about a pound lighter and 30-50% thinner than comparable non-Apple machines. They also feel stronger. If nothing else, Apple is the king of fit and finish, especially with the latest round ofiPod and portable upgrades. The contrast is as stark, if not as practical, on the desktop side of things, though Apple’s desktop aesthetics come at the expense of minimalism…

Ports and Expansion – Sorry Apple, PCs win here. As long as Steve Jobs reigns as Apple CEO, his philosophy of “less is more” will deprive Apple machines of such ports asHDMI, limit USB connectors to a ridiculously low number compared with PCs, and insist on proprietary video connectors on all but the low-end and high-end desktop Macs (the Mac mini and Mac Pro are now the only Apple computers that have an industry-standard video out connector, and the Macmini’s days may be numbered, with no upgrades in practically forever). Also, ahem, no FireWire on new Macbooks, more inexplicable because Apple pushed the standard so hard in the beginning. As to expansion capabilities, the Macbook Pro has an ExpressCard slot, and the Mac Pro has tons of expansion capabilities. For other Macs, you can upgrade the memory (iMac and Macbook series) and the hard drive (Macbook series) without voiding your warranty. This stands in opposition to PC units, where most desktops allow you to dive into the case, upgrading whatever component you want, and where the vast majority of notebook PCs haveExpressCard slots and plenty give easy access to upgrade the memory, hard drive, wireless card and maybe more.

One more thing: you don’t see media card readers on Macs. Useful, but you’ll have to buy your own and hook it up externally.

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2008
10.21

Here are the latest bits and pieces of news from around the tech world. Come back here this weekend for even more…

The McCain Campaign has been bitten by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Several of their YouTube videos, including political advertisements, were taken down upon DMCA complaints from who-knows-where, possibly the studios whose shows can be seen, albeit briefly, in the ads. McCain’s legal counsel has asked YouTube to exercise discretion about the takedown notices, ignoring them if “fair use” applies,, however the DMCA makes no provision for such a thing and for YouTube to make such arbitration would lead it down a slippery slope out of safe haror provisions, thus making it a much, much more restrictive environment for posting videos. All of this is rather ironic, but very much needed; McCain supported the DMCA’s legislation a few years back.

Speaking of YouTube, it is now the second-largest search engine on the web. Google is number one, Yahoo ranks third. If you count Google and YouTube as a single entity, there’s no chance of catching up unless aliens suddenly abduct the colorful company.

Sandisk’s SlotMusic initiative is now in full force, though the idea is downright dumb. Basically you’re lookig at a casette-player model (no track information one album per piece of media) except instead of casettes you’ve got tiny MicroSD cards. It’s a nice way to sell flash memory for Sandisk, and at least SlotMusic cards don’t have to be rewound after playing, but if you have a midrange cell phone (or, for that matter, one of several of Sandisk’s MicroSD-slot-equipped Sansa players), there’s absolutely no point in getting the $20 SlotMusic player. Nor, in my opinion, any reason for not just downloading your music from Amazon’s MP3 store to a regular MP3 player or a regular McroSD card, which can be found for around $5 per gigabyte nowadays.

Don’t want the temptation of a ringing phone while driving? By working with cell carriers, Aegis Mobility wants to help, forwarding calls to voicemail and pausing text message reception if you’re traveling at a high rate of speed, presumably down the freeway. Problem: you could be in a bus, or in the passenger seat. Interesting, though…what do you think?

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2008
10.17

Yes, it’s been awhile, so these news bits will be shorter and to the point. Hopefully this will be enough catch-up news-wise since my last post of this type…

YouTube is now serving up TV shows on their site, starting with Star Trek, Beverly Hills 90210 and MacGyver. The interface seems reminiscent of Hulu’s, with a big focus on the viewing area, plus some ads interspersed in with the content. Fine with me…I’d rather watch an ad or two on a cool TV show than have YouTube keep on not making any money…

Texting while driving has now been proven to be more dangeous than driving while drunk. Just don’t do it. Also, if you don’t have a number on voice dial, think twice before trying to hammer it own while speeding down the freeway. Have an iPhone? You’re screwed; stop if you want to do anything with your shiny new toy, or have someone who isn’t behind the wheel do it for you.

Know about the Roku “Netflix Box”? Pretty soon it’ll be able to stream from a variety of sources. A very good deal when you’re talking about a device that costs just under $100.

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2008
10.16

Have they oversimplified? Not upgraded enough where it counts?

As you may know, Apple released a few new computer models Tuesday, thnning down, lightening up and bringing sexy back to the computer marketplace. Or something like that. But they also showed their true colors: arrogantly proclaiming “you don’t need XYZ feature” by flat-out removing it, without warning, from their new computer models. Here are a few of those missing features:

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2008
10.14

Look Ma, No Button!

Today Apple announced a few game-changing additions to their product lineup, most of them in the notebook sector. Here’s the rundown:

Macbook Pro – Breaking the inch-thick barrier, the new 15″ Macbook Pro, taking cues from the Macbook Air and the newest generation of iMac, is 0.95″ in height and weighs a mere 5.5 pounds. These astounding specs stem from a manufacturing process pioneered with the Macbook Air: the body of the Macbook Pro is constructed from a handful of pieces of machines aluminum. The glass-covered LED-backlit screen is powered by either an nVidia GeForce 9400 or a 9600 chip, depending on whether you want four or five hours of battery life (both are included, and you can switch between them). The touchpad, also made of glass and tuned for the ultimate tracking experience, has no buttons and four-finger (!) gestures.

The new Macbook Pros start at $1,999 and also include the expected processor and memory upgrades from the new Intel Montevina system. The 17″ Macbook Pro looks to be untouched by these advances, but it is still available for sale on Apple’s website.

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2008
10.12

You may have noticed by another article with my byline (or somewhere else) that Apple introduced a bunch of new notebook computers today. That’s all well and good, but the prices for those computers start at $1300, which may be out of your budget. Plus, you might appreciate a FireWire port on such an expensive machine, or maybe you just want to have a touchpad with buttons. In either case, there are plenty of computers out there to fit your demands. Like the Lenovo IdeaPad Y430, for example.

I mention this computer because it was the model my family decided upon when choosing a laptop for my little brother, who will need a computer when he enters 8th grade next fall. Granted, it’s a bit early for such things, but he needs to learn to type and generally use a computer for anything other than gaming in the interim. My secondary, but more important, reason for mentioning this particular laptop is that I would be perfectly happy buying and using it for myself; it’s cheap, it seems to perform well, it’s chock full of extra features, and it’s just an all-around solid workhorse without weighing down your backpack or lightening your wallet to an alarming degree.

You may be wondering wh in the world Lenovo is. In short, IBM. The long story is that, a few years ago, Lenovo (a chinese company) bought the computer division of IBM, including their excellent engineering team. That’s why we’re talking about an IdeaPad computer, basically the consumer analog of the business-class ThinkPad series.

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2008
10.09

Two internet marketing mantras examined. Neither are quite what they seem.

If you’ve been at The Oredigger‘s website before you probably know I talk a lot about internet services, continually ragging on Comcast for their caps and, to a lesser extent, on Qwest for the ineptitude of their service. In the interest of full disclosure, I currently use Comcast for my internet, paying them a juicy $53 per month for their higher tier of residential service. The price will rise to $63 in a few months. I also have access to Qwest DSL through my apartment building, and even had the service for a little under twenty-four hours. I use Comcast now because it has lower latency (internet travel time) between me and both Mines’ network and the networks of most websites I visit. It’s also faster on downloads and uploads by a factor of two or three versus Qwest’s highest end plan. In short, I know from experience what I’m talking about…

…and the topic today is advertising. On the one hand Qwest promises lightning-fast speeds on their “Fiber Optic” network. Comcast says they’ll deliver a similar animal via their PowerBoost-branded technology. So what’s beyond all this hype from these companies? Glad you asked.

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