Sunday, December 26, 2010

Consumer Guide: Where to buy a new Mac

In this Gigaom article I discuss the various places to buy a new Mac and the benefits and drawbacks of each choice.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: iPad Portable Genius

The "Portable Genius" line by Wiley is a relatively new series by them primarily designed to take advantage of Apple's unique meaning of the word "Genius." Primarily, they compete with the Peachpit Visual Quickstart guides. Using copious screenshots and short explanations of popular concepts, Portable Genius covers that 20% of features you'll use 80% of the time.

Both the table of contents and the index allow readers to hone in on the key functions which interest them. Concepts are well explained in a "how do I?" and a "can I?" format instead of a feature- or app-based approach. New iPad users will find this presentation more approachable.

Unfortunately iPad Portable Genius suffered from some poor editing in which too often the author didn't update the iOS steps that differ for an iPad and an iPhone or iPod Touch. On rare occasions, the advice given is controversial. For example, the author suggests if you can't sync all your content to your iPad you should consider deleting some content from your main computer. That is just irresponsible! Additionally the steps and screenshots in the book are primarily Macintosh based so Windows users might be a bit confused.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Overall this is a competent and quality beginners guide to the iPad and a welcome addition to the existing guides available

Pros: functional approach with concepts well explained and easy to find
Cons: assumes end user has a Mac, some errors and confusing passages

3 out of 5 Dogcows

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Disclosure and Review Policy

Title: Disclosure and Review Policy

As a responsible and ethical blogger who believes in transparency and authenticity, this is my disclosure regarding my review process and any potential bias and conflict of interest. Of course, this is due to the FTC guidelines, but my policy also serves as a general resources for readers, publications, and vendors

1) Generally all products reviewed were provided at no charge by the manufacturer or the manufacturer representative. This is a common industry practice Some companies allow the reviewer to keep the product while others ask for it in return. As a blogger, I don't know whether the product will be asked for in return.

2) Unsolicited products are occasionally sent to me. This is not due to any existing relationship with the company nor is it payment for any previous, current or future reviews. If I receive such items I may choose to review or decline to review. That is my choice. Due to the time constraints, I cannot tract down unsolicited items to return them. It's the responsibility of the sender to provide return instructions if they wish to receive it back.

3) Under no circumstances will I agree to review an item in exchange for direct or indirect compensation. A key example of this quid pro quo arrangement is "You must agree to review the product in exchange for a review copy of the product." That creates a conflict of interest that is unacceptable. Providing a product for review in no way obligates me to review the product and I as the reviewer will determine the timetable for review. Of course, the provider of the product may ask for it back at any time.

4) Under no circumstances will I accept compensation for a review. This includes reimbursement for buying the product or accessories as well any "gift" for reviewing the product. An unsolicited product is not a gift.

5) Any item reviewed has actually been used by me, often for an extended period of time. I do not "review by press release." Any books reviewed were actually read by me. Occasionally I will read other reviews of products for ideas of features to look for or consider in the review.

6) On occasion, for items I enthusiastically enjoy, I might continue use past the review date. Since the item is a review, most manufacturers can't accept payment for an item nor will they accept an item back that has been used. If I continue to use the product after a review, I will update or provide a new review if I find a major defect that would impact the original review.

7) Any products received by me are never sold to a third party, but they may occasionally be donated or gifted. Frequently, I give these as raffle items for the Lawrence Apple Users group. I might donate these items to non-profits or given to friends in need. Items at end of life are always recycled responsibility.

8) Reviews I write may be quoted as testimonials, but I do request notification of that fact. In spite of a product being given for review, these should not be considered paid testimonials nor endorsements.

9) All NDA's and embargoes are completely respected and adhered to. I use reasonable measures to protect against such disclosures, but with the nature of the Internet of course, email is not a fully secure method of transmission.

10) As someone with over 30 years experience in the technical industry, I develop a wide variety of industry contacts and relationships. While these relationships may bring certain items to my attention, I will decline to review or report on anything that may cause me a conflict of interest with those people or I think the review and the relationship may suffer because of it. Generally these contacts provide me unique industry insights and perspectives, but all the guidelines above apply. That includes such mundane things as a "dinner" thanking me for review or covering a story.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hardware Review: Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4

The Otterbox Defender series of iPhone cases has gotten a just reputation over the past couple years as the Cadillac (or should that be M1-A1 tank?) of iPhone protection. Consisting of several separate and integrated layers of protection designed to secure and protect the phone from whatever shock and awe gets thrown its way, the Defender is the iPhone case you’d go to war with. Does the new Defender for the iPhone 4 meets it predecessor’s lofty reputation or are there some chinks in the armor?

Like earlier iterations, the Defender package contains and inner core of shock-resistant plastic, with a felt liner on the interior to protect the phone. A screen protector is integrated to the plastic and cannot be removed (no bubbles!) Wrapping around the exterior of the device is a thick rubberized shell (available in red, blue, or black), protecting all sides of the device from impact, and including retractable flaps over the dock connector, headphone jack (which houses the moisture sensor) and mute button ports. Only the speakers remain “open” to the elements.

All this protection nearly doubles the thickness and heft of the phone, and the thick rubber covers over the buttons and ports take some getting used to, and can be annoying if you have to frequently mute and unmute the phone for whatever reason. For someone who wants this level of protection, these are minor annoyances only. The Defender is a tank, and really protects the phone. I have no qualms taking my phone into humid environments or using it in a light rain shower with this case on (although keep in mind it is NOT waterproof!)

The screen protector is excellent, and bubble free, and I like the fact that it protects the screen without having to actually be stuck on. Dirty fingers are no problem here! Note that sometimes the inside of the screen protector may adhere slightly to the screen. Ironically the secret is to make sure there are some fingerprints on the screen before you put it in the case.

The case can take a ton pf physical abuse as well. The Defender is the case that you can see in videos of iPhones being tossed around against brick walls and cement floors. I wasn’t about to replicate this with my own personal iPhone, but I feel quite confident that it will simply shrug off drops onto hard floors or parking lots from ordinary heights. Based on my experience with the Defender 3G/3GS case, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ (or rockin’ or talkin’ as the case may be.)

The Defender comes with a belt clip which doubles as a stand for watching multimedia on the phone. I don’t like belt clips and would not use it, but for those who use these things, it is an effective and very sturdy clip which adds additional protection to the phone. The design is much different than the previous versions. The clip holds the phone horizontal instead of vertical in theory making it less susceptible to disengagement while siting down or bending over. You could literally roll around on concrete with the clip and and the phone would be fine. Without a doubt, the Defender is the most sturdy iPhone protective case on the market. It is the armored vehicle of iPhone cases and will defend your phone from the slings and arrows of daily life.

My only caveat with fully recommending the iPhone 4 Defender case to everyone is the fact that some accessories have trouble working with the phone while in its case. In particular, devices that rely on the dock connector or the headphone jack sometimes had problems. Removing the iPhone 4 from the Defender case takes time as you have to remove each layer of protection. This was an annoyance inherited from previous versions, but the occasional incompatibly is minor compared to having to pay for a iPhone glass replacement, or worse a new iPhone.

Until Otterbox came out with an iPhone 4 Defender case, I wasn’t one of those buying a phone on day one. I trust my iPhone to no other case but the Defender. My numerous near misses with my iPhone 3G and 3GS made me a believer and the iPhone 4 Defender case inherited all the qualities of its predecessor with a few extra bells and whistles.

Pros: Strong, reliable protection for every aspect of the iPhone 4
Cons: Does add bulk, some accessories have problems working with the case

5 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Hardware Review: Otterbox Commuter for iPhone 4

iPhone cases seem to come in two different varieties: fashionable lightweights which look nice but provide poor protection and larger cases that add protection along with bulk. Personally I prefer function over form (Otterbox Defender!) but the Commuter is an excellent compromise that adds style and protection without a great deal of bulk.

Unlike it's beefier sibling, the Commuter's rubber sleeve is is banded by a smooth plastic shell, which allows the
Commuter to easily slide in and out of one's pocket. The case is actually two parts, a thin rubber piece which wraps over most of the
phone, providing shock protection, and then the aforementioned plastic piece, which slides over the back of the phone vertically as a band, providing further protection. Finally, there is a screen protector, which must be manually applied and is prone to bubbling. All together, these provide three layers of protection.

In daily use, the case provides fine protection against the usual hazards of iPhone ownership, such as pocket junk, random banging
against other objects, and sliding across tables, and it's dual layer protection is superior to the high fashion cases. Although, I didn't actually test intentionally dropping the phone, based on the construction of the case, I am pretty confident it would survive a short fall onto a hard surface unless you got unlucky enough to have something impact the front glass. I had enough close encounters with my iPhone 3GS and Commuter to trust Otterbox's design.

What are the downsides of the Commuter? Well, just like the Model T, you can have the Commuter in any color you like, as long as it is
black. I was disappointed in the lack of any color options, but this may not be a big deal to many people and I'm sure Otterbox will develop more colors later on. Another negative was the slim flap which protects the dock connection; although a good idea in
theory, the flap often comes loose and ends up just being annoying. Finally, the areas where the edges of the rubber of the case touched
the phone (such as around the screen and the mute switch) seemed to become dust magnets, although to be fair, many rubber cases have the same issue.

Overall, the Commuter is a great balance of protection in a lightweight design that easily slides in and out of your pocket. For my spouse the protection the Commuter offers is "just right" - more protection than the "free cases" Apple offered, with a minimal amount of bulk. If the Otterbox iPhone 4 case was a car, the Commuter would be the luxury sedan while the Defender is a tank. Not everyone wants to drive a tank to work.

Pros: A perfect balance of form and function and superior 3-layer protection
Cons: Lack of color choices, average manual screen protection

Rating: 4 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review: iPhoto 09 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide

Like other Visual Quickstart Guides, the version for iPhoto '09 is not a manual but a detailed and complete how-to guide. Instead of covering every feature, the book covers those features you'd be most interested in, and the author doesn't disappoint. Rather than answering the question "What does this do?", the book answers the questions about "How do I do this?"

The book covers the following topics in detail in a logic progression of how a new user would approach the topic, and features chapters on installation, importing and managing photos, working with the Faces and Places feature, slideshows, editing, publishing, and printing photos. As a bonus, the book also contains a great appendix on photography techniques to make anyone a better photographer.

Within each topic, details are covered one page at a time with copious screenshots (hence the Visual part of the title) making for a quick read without too much fluff and superfluous information (the Quickstart part of the title). Engst's excellent writing style enabled even the more complex topics to be succinctly and deftly handled in just a few paragraphs. Personally I've always had problems getting pictures to print correctly on photo paper and after reading the short page on Printing Standard Prints and the Troubleshooting guide, I realised what I was doing wrong and no longer have a stack for recycling each time I want a simple 4x6.

The Troubleshooting chapter in particular is an outstanding guide on figuring out what to do when iPhoto acts quirky. It helps you with those functions that should work, but due to current bugs in iPhoto, don't. You won't find this detailed guide anywhere, so serious iPhoto users should buy it for this reason alone!.

Although I consider myself an intermediate iPhoto user, I still found quite a bit of value from this book. I clearly don't use the full potential of iPhoto, and know more about how to use certain functions to my advantage rather than learning for the sake of learning. Both beginner and intermediate users will find just what they need in this book. Rarely can a book walk that line of not talking down to intermediate users and not talking over the heads of a beginning users. Here is proof you can do both.

Pros: Covers the most useful topics within iPhoto in a quick easy to understand format with great tips and tricks along they way.
Cons: Absolutely none

Five out of Five dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Backblaze vs. CrashPlan: Mac Backup Smackdown, Round 2

In this article for TheAppleBlog, I reexamine online backup services and compare BackBlaze to Crashplan. Which one is best after another year of testing--read the article to find out

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hardware Review: iVisor AG Matte Protector for iPad

Throughout history various philosophers and scientists have envisioned a goal, yet have never been able to achieve it. Early on we had the alchemists who tried to turn lead into gold; in the last century physicists tried to create cold fusion, and more recently have been trying to prove the existence of the Higgs boson. Likewise, mankind has tried for ages to create screen protectors that are bubble free. Science simply has been unable to achieve a bubble free applied screen protector....until now.

Moshi has turned the rules upside down. When I first heard about the iVisor AG Matte Protector for iPad, I denied it's existence as well. I thought it would make it easier to be bubble free, but I simply couldn't fathom that Moshi had achieved the impossible. For the record, I'm about the worst at applying screen protectors. I constantly have bubbles, bumps and dust on the screen and eventually just give up. Therefore I can think of nobody better to test the iVisor AG Matte Protector for iPad

If I hadn't done it with my own two hands and seen it with my own two eyes I would not have believed it. On my first try with only a light wiping of the screen, my iVisor applied without a hitch. Zero bubbles, zero distortion, and zero glare. The screen looked so much better without the glare or fingerprints of the original iPad screen. The touch screen was just as responsive as before. My concern about the laws of physics, however, was immediately challenged.

The next morning the sun did come up, gravity was still working yet my iPad screen was still protected and was fingerprint and bubble free. After getting a bit of grease on the screen, I was able to remove the protector, clean it, and reapply the iVisor again without bubbles.

Overall, the iVisor is the best screen protector I've ever seen for any device. Not only does it protect the screen and reduce glare, the zero-bubble feature is simply amazing and isn't science-fiction but science fact. After using the iVisor, I can't imagine ever dealing with the hassles of the average screen protector. I can't wait until they come out with this for the iPhone and the iPods!

I think I'm going to revisit that whole lead-gold thing again, because thanks to Moshi I believe anything is now possible.

Pros: Protects the screen, zero bubbles, zero glare
Cons: Makes you question established laws of science

Five out of Five Dogcows.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Hardware Review: Matias Folding Keyboard for Bluetooth

While many people can do occasional typing on the iPad or iPhone via the virtual keyboard, serious keyboarding simply isn't possible without a true external keyboard. While Apple offers two options, they are limiting and the Matias Folding Keyboard provides an ideal third option for serious iPad typists.

Before I got the Matias Folding Keyboard, I used the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and the Apple iPad Dock with Keyboard. I immediately disliked the iPad Dock. It required me to remove my iPad from it's protective case while docked and didn't allow me to change the angle of the iPad nor move the keyboard to a more comfortable and ergonomically ideal position for me. Of course, it wasn't as portable.

The Apple Bluetooth keyboard was much better for me. My main complaint about it was that I didn't terribly like typing on it. The keyboard is physically small and the keys aren't as responsive. Additionally, when I'd do number crunching, I missed the 10-key pad of a traditional keyboard. Travelling with the Apple Bluetooth was better than the Dock, but the metal keyboard got hot in the car and the cylinder at the top of the keyboard didn't always fit in travel bags easily.

The Matias Folding Keyboard is an ideal compromise for the serious iPad typist. Unlike Apple's offerings, this is a full-sized keyboard. There are no tiny key caps designed to look good, but not to do heavy typing. This keyboard folds to about the overall size and thickness of the Apple Blutooth keyboard, but unfolds into a full keyboard complete with number pad and a spacious typing area.

If you want to effectively type with an iPad, the Matias Folding Keyboard is an ideal combination of portability and function. You'll have a full sized keyboard that's compact and and a pleasure to type on.

Pros: Full sized keyboard with the ability to fold down to a portable size
Cons: Could use some feet to make it a bit more ergonomic.

4 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tip: Reuse that Old PC with your Mac

In this post for TheAppleBlog, I give some tips on recycling an old PC for use with your Mac. Reuse before recycling!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hardware Review: Otterbox Commuter for iPad

The name Otterbox is synonymous with quality protection for your portable devices, so having a line of cases for the iPad is a welcome addition to their family.

Generally, Otterbox cases come in the "Defender" line and the "Commuter" line. While the Defender is the ultimate in protection, the Commuter is an excellent balance of price, performance and bulk.

The Otterbox Commuter for the iPad is similar to Commuter products down the Otterbox product line. It combines a silicone wraparound with a hard plastic support and a plastic screen overlay: three different forms of protection for your iPad when most vendors provide only one.

The Commuter added a slight bit of bulk to the side and back of the iPad, but was within the normal dimensions of other silicone cases. I was easily able to fit it in most iPad sleeves. Given the large size of the iPad, a structural support in back is important to prevent screen cracking due to flexing.

The Commuter's combination of matte makes the case much easier to grab and much less likely to slip out of your fingers. Holding my iPad in this case was comfortable and natural. Unlike other silicone cases that didn't quite fit, the Otterbox always has a tight custom fit.

I'm a big fan of the Defender Case, but not everyone wants that level of protection (or price tag). For those looking for the perfect balance of price, style, and protection, the Otterbox Commuter for iPad delivers!

Pros: Light yet sturdy protection
Cons: None

Five out of Five Dogcows.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quick Tip: Backup Checkup

In this post for TheAppleBlog, I cover the importance of regularly testing your backups and verifying you can do a restore

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review: Snow Leopard The Missing Manual

Weighing in at over 3 pounds and close to 900 pages, this book isn't just the missing manual, but the definitive guide to everything Snow Leopard. If it isn't in there, you probably don't need to know it.

Seriously, though, this is a great guide and each time Pogue comes up with a new edition of his Mac OS Missing Manuals, they just keep getting better and better. Similar to previous editions, the author takes you through every aspect of the operating system and the included applications and even some of the iLife apps. Menu commands, their functions, and their relation to real world situations is a hallmark of the Missing Manual series. Screen shots are used where appropriate but not so many that you feel like you are reading a comic book. Of course, sprinkled throughout the book are tips, tricks, and "nostalgic corners" telling us how we got to this 6th generation of Mac OS X.

Unlike previous editions of the book, the author is including more of the intermediate users in his mix. Many more advanced topics aren't just mentioned, but clearly explained. In particular, the book explains the difference between Applescript and Automator and how to write practical scripts and workflows the average user would benefit from. Other more advanced topics include Windows and Mac file sharing (especially the problems Windows 7 poses), virtual private networking, and top "useful" unix commands.

The book is designed to be a reference guide more than a how to or walkthrough book. The table of contents and index are indispensable tools for zeroing in on exactly the right command and program to get the job done. Every IT department and help desk should have a copy of this book.

Pros: Extensive information geared for both novices and intermediate users
Cons: Requires lifting with the legs, not the back

Five out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hardware Review: Otterbox Defender Case for iPad

I've only been in a tank once. It was some museum in my childhood and I can't remember where, but it was impressive. When you were inside you couldn't hear anything from the outside world. You'd bang on it and your hand would hurt. It was an impressive vehicle that provided unbelievable protection from the outside.

"Tank" is the first word I thought of when using my Otterbox Defender for the iPad.

While I'm a big fan of the Defender for the iPhone, I was deeply concerned about my iPad. The iPad costs nearly twice as much and just seems so exposed with that big screen in the front. Would my trusted guardian angels in Fort Collins let me down? Absolutely not.

Similar to most Otterbox Defender cases, the Defender for the iPad has two methods of protection. The core is made of hard plastic, which is particularly important on the iPad since you could flex it hard enough to crack the glass. Unfortunately, I've seen this in action. The second line of defense is a standard silicone overwrap. This silicone withstood sweat and oils without getting slick or discolored. The silicone protects most of the ports on the iPad such as the volume switch and the rotation lock. The dock connector is protected for daily use, but is accessible via a removable plate to allow the iPad to be plugged in for charging.

Unlike the Defender for the iPhone, the Defender for the iPad does not have an integrated plastic screen shield built into the case. I was very disappointed because they included a standard plastic overlay instead. I hate those. After about 10 attempts of putting on the plastic overlay and pushing out the bubbles, I gave up entirely. I'm sure the engineering of such a large screen protector was difficult, but I did like the complete protection the integrated overlay offered for the phone version and wish it were available for the iPad version as well..

The Defender for the iPad had some unique features that more than made up for the lack of integrated screen protector. Because the screen is so vulnerable on the iPad, Otterbox included a hard plastic protector shield that completely encloses the front of the iPad and snaps into place with the rest of the case. But there's one more thing: this hard plastic also acts as an iPad stand in either horizontal or vertical mode. I've struggled with carrying a quality iPad stand while doing heavy typing and my prayers were answered by Otterbox's engineering department.

Some may balk that the case has an $89 price tag or that it bulks up the iPad a bit, but like the solider in the field, sometimes you need that level of protection. It won't protect against everything, but for day-to-day mortals like me who take it everywhere around town, this is a reliable insurance policy to protect my iPad against mishaps. I love my iPad almost as much as my Defender for my iPad! Great job!

Pros: Outstanding protection, innovative screen protector and stand
Cons: No integrated plastic screen shield

5 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, September 26, 2010

iPad App Roundup: Food Diaries and Calorie Counters

In this blog post for TheAppleBlog, I cover food diaries and calorie counters for the iPad. Some great ones out there!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hardware Review: Car MD

I'm about the worst person at taking care of my car. I'm like the computer owner who never backs up, doesn't run an antivirus, and always unplugs the computer instead of doing a proper shutdown. I'm a mechanic's nightmare. However with CarMD ($98.00), at least I'm not a total n00b anymore in taking care of my car.

CarMD takes advantage of the OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) port built into most cars made after 1996, which is usually located somewhere under the dash. The CarMD website tells you exactly where to find the port on your particular car. Once you find the port, all you have to do is plug it into your car and wait until the device beeps that it's read your car's info. Three simple lights give you a quick diagnostic of your car's status: a green checkmark indicating all is ok, an yellow question mark indicating there might be a problem and a red x indicating something needs to be corrected.

The CarMD includes a USB cable and software to hook the device up to your computer. The software primarily creates a bridge between the device and the CarMD website. The first time you use the website, you have to put your car's information and mileage into the system. One account can support up to three different cars. I easily added my car and my spouse's. They suggest using the device when checking out a potential used car for purchase, but with only 3 cars on one account, the usefulness in this area is somewhat limited.

The first time I tried the device, my car just had a major milestone of service, so I knew everything checked out ok. Ironically, my CarMD had an yellow light indicating a problem. I panicked and spoke with their support people. Apparently when you get your car serviced, certain logs are cleared out so there wasn't enough diagnostic info in some areas. Whew! A few weeks later the device had no problem giving my car a clean bill of health.

In addition to explaining your "check engine" light on your car, the CarMD website also informs you of any recalls or technical service bulletins. For an additional $19.95 you can unlocked an unlimited number of these TSBs, or you can simply research them yourself. For an car dummy like me, it's best just to pay for the premium so you have all your car info in one place. In the future, CarMD promises the Premium Membership will include data about scheduled and preventative maintenance.

Overall, I really liked the device. I panic when any strange lights come on my car or whenever I have a problem. For less than the cost of a shop visit, I can arm myself with enough information to make an informed decision about my car care.

Pros: Quality information about your car and its current state
Cons: Premium membership is a bit costly for what it does

4 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here , Macsimumnews here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hardware Review: Lapworks Recliner

As the market matures for iPad products, the choices for a good stand have become overwhelming. Some people have made a cheap stand from a few parts found at an office supply store while others have a rudimentary stand built right into an iPad protective sleeve. Lapworks focus on style and function rather than portability and cost. Although $44.95 is not cheap, neither was your iPad.

Fortunately this stand isn't specific to the iPad, but can hold any similarly sized tablet device such as a Kindle or Nook. The stand is adjustable and can sit anywhere from 8.25 inches tall to 4.25 inches tall so you can comfortable read or display your device at any angle. It also supports the iPad in either a portrait or landscape mode. The rubber pads provide an excellent grip to prevent slipping and sliding while allowing full access to the device, including the charging port.

Unfortunately the stand isn't really portable. Unlike other Lapworks products, this stand does not fold or deconstruct for easy carrying. I tried to carry it with me to the coffee shop, but the point of carrying the iPad was reducing bulky accessories, not adding to them. Honestly, for the price, I'd expect a bit more. I did receive quite a few compliments at the coffee shop, though.

Overall, I really liked the stand. While not in use, the stand made a highly stable base of my iPad while charging and showing pictures. Occasionally while watching TV on the iPad, the base travelled into the bedroom to provide a easy platform for viewing. Trying to watch a 60 minute show while holding an iPad does get tiring quickly. When the iPad is used for heavy word processing with the bluetooth keyboard, the experience was clearly superior to the iPad keyboard stand produced by Apple.

Pros: Stable, attractive base for your iPad
Cons: Pricey, not portable

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hardware Review: Hard Candy iPad Case

Hard Candy seem to always be first to market lately with protective cases for Apple's latest accessories. First impressions mean a lot and Hard Candy doesn't disappoint. Their Bubble Sleeve is the case I rely on for my iPad when I want to make sure it's gong to arrive at my destination intact.

This case adds quite a bit of bulk to your iPad. Other sleeves can be compared to a sports car: svelte, stylish and fragile. The Bubble Sleeve is the mini-van of iPad cases and focuses on protection rather than style or size. It's the sleeve you'd carry your children to soccer practice in. Don't we all think of our iPads as a member of the family? Color options include black, gold, and pink. Externally, the Bubble Sleeve looks like bubble wrap. Round half globes give it an industrial look and provide the first level of protection for your precious. Inside, your iPad is cushioned with a firewall of soft foam rectangles. The sides of the Bubble Sleeve are reinforced with felt struts to provide additional protection on the endpoints. The back of the iPad is cushioned in a flat layer of foam protection combined with bright red shock absorbing rubber bumpers to hold your iPad in place.

Overall, I found the Bubble Sleeve a bit bulky for everyday trips to the coffee shop. When traveling the protection was outstanding. I felt very comfortable that putting my Bubble Sleeve in my carry on or laptop bag would ensure my iPad arrived along with me intact and unscathed. Neoprene sleeves simply don't provide enough shock absorption for the bumps and drops the average traveller encounters. I've also used the Bubble Sleeve when carrying my iPad on my bicycle and recommend the Bubble Sleeve to students who ride to class. Those bubbles will protect your iPad from getting crushed by those heavy textbooks in your backpack.

Pros: Excellent protection and quality
Cons: May be a bit bulky for everyday use

Macsimum News Rating 9 out of 10

4.5 out of 5 dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quick tip: Protect your address book

Here's a tip I wrote for TheAppleBlog I've long used to obscure information in plain sight in my address book. I've never done it with credit cards, but used it as an example.

This post was also features on TUAW

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hardware Review: OWC Express Case

You just decided to upgrade your Macbook hard drive to take advantage of the incredible storage space out there now or maybe you are adventuresome and switched to a Solid State Drive. What should you do with the old hard drive?

If you are looking for an easy, economical repurposing of that old hard drive, the OWC Express 2.0 enclosure is an excellent choice at $19.99. Unfortunately I've been burned figuratively and literally by inferior quality enclosures with questionable origin--my Mac Pro has the scorch marks on the USB port to attest to this fact. Luckily this enclosure comes from a company which stands behind their product and truly knows the Mac.

Don't expect many bells and whistles on this unit. The case is made of plastic despite it's faux metal appearance. Nonetheless, the case is sturdy and has stood the test of time being a spare hard drive I keep in my laptop bag for large data transfers.

Installation of the old drive into the case was simple: a few screws and you are done. Clear instructions were included as well as USB cable. Included additionally in the kit is a faux leather carrying case to match the faux metal case. The carrying case had little value because I couldn't easily carry the case and the USB cable. No big deal, but a little more attention to the design would have added significant value to the carrying case.

Whether you are looking for a portable drive or an easy Time Machine backup, the OWC Express 2.0 is an inexpensive and reliable way to reuse an old SATA drive while sticking with Other World Computing's legendary quality.

Pros: Inexpensive and reliable
Cons: Faux leather carrying case isn't very useful

Four out of five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right. Also appeared in MacTech and MacsimumNews

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: My New iPad: A User's Guide

The "My New" series is designed for non-technical beginning users who need some hand-holding in confronting their new device. "My New iPad" is a perfect book for someone who has never used in iPad or iPhone and needs to be taught the very basics. Although the book claims intermediate users can learn tips and tricks, the book was too simplistic to be of any value to experienced users.

For the beginning, readers will find just the information they need to get up and running. Although the book is a thick 350 or so pages, it's a very quick read and includes a large number of pictures for reference purposes and learning about your iPad without actually having an iPad in front of you.

Instead of focusing on every feature, the book covers those features the average new user would be interested in. The books starts at the beginning: how to turn the iPad off and on. Instead of a list of every feature of every setting in alphabetical order, the presentation is based on how a user first approaches their iPad. First they turn it on, then customize it, then they get on the Internet and go from there. The last chapters focus on more advanced topics such as moving Microsoft Office docs to and from your iPad and suggested apps (although the app suggestions are extremely outdated). In the middle is a focus on practical aspects of iPad use - less about what an app does, and more how to integrate that app into your daily usage.

Overall, this book is great for a beginner to the iOS platform as well as the iPad user who bought one and quite can't figure out the best way to use it.

Pros: Well-illustrated with clear examples on usage, focuses on the features of the iPad the average user would be interested in a logical order
Cons: Simplistic for iPad users already comfortable with the device

4 out of 5 dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why do you need a computer to use an iPad?

It's a legitimate question and one that plagued me since I got my iPad and had to wait until I got home to activate and use it. This heavily commented article was featured on TheAppleBlog.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

How to give your old iPhone new life with prepaid data and minutes

This very popular post about how to use an old iPhone with a prepaid plan for both minutes AND data proved very popular. Not only was it originally written for TheAppleBlog, but LifeHacker also run the story.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Hardware Review: Belkin Pleat Sleeve iPad

The iPad is a magical and revolutionary device but the choice of how to protect it can be downright mystifying. Do you go for a portfolio or a sleeve? Should it be a soft case or hard case?

My new favorite iPad protector is made by Belkin. The Belkin Pleat Sleeve ($39.99) for the iPad has styling that is simple and unobtrusive. I don't want to draw attention to my iPad and have it stolen. If you want everyone to know you have an iPad, this case isn't for you.

The sleeve currently comes in either black or "perfect plum" (purple). The Pleat Sleeve is made of lightweight neoprene and fits snugly around your iPad. All sides of the case are padded, but the glass front is particularly well protected, since the glass is the most common break point.

However, the best part of the Pleat Sleeve is the zipper hidden in the pleats which has room for your earphones, iPhone, charger and more. I love putting my iPad in this case and having everything I need for a productive afternoon at the coffeehouse. The material of the Sleeve is tightly woven, so I expect it to hold up for a long time.

Pros: Great protection especially for the front panel, zippered pocket, Doesn't look like an iPad case
Cons: Doesn't look like an iPad case

4 out of 5 dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Monday, July 19, 2010

Apple finally on Twitter

One notable exception in the Social Media Universe is Apple. That might have changed with Scott Forstall's Twitter account. Here's my thoughts on Apple's potential Social Media presence I wrote about for TheAppleBlog

Sunday, July 11, 2010

iPad Office Suites: Quickoffice or Documents To Go

Which one is better for the iPad? Quickoffice or Documents to Go. Read my analysis over at TheAppleBlog and find out

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Quick Tip: Sharing iPhone and iPad Apps On the Go

Want to share your iPhone and iPad apps with a family member, but you are nowhere near a computer. This handy tip that I wrote for TheAppleBlog tells you how.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Who Got the iPad: Scorecard and Prediction

A while back I posted an article about who might get to sell the iPad. I follow up with this TheAppleBlog article reviewing my predications and making a few more

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Things Just Got Ridiculous in the Apple/Adobe Conflict

As the war between Apple and Adobe reaches a "flashpoint" (pun intended),multiple Federal agencies want their piece of the pie. Is their concern meritorious or is this a power play?

I analyze that question in this TheAppleBlog article

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Apple backup returns with an update

Apple recently updated their backup software included with MobileMe subscriptions. This version is significantly faster and more reliable, but time will tell. I wrote this article about my initial first impressions for TheAppleBlog.

This is a followup to my article back in November for TheAppleBlog about Apple's lack of updates to backup

Thursday, May 13, 2010

iPad iPad iPad

I've been pretty busy writing about iPad related stuff. Instead of listing these in separate posts, I'll just aggregate them together

Lingering iPad Question: Who Gets to Sell it?
In this post, I examine the question of who will get to sell the iPad. I made some predictions as to whom besides Apple will sell it. Apple said "select" Apple Specialists, but didn't indicate which ones.

iPad: It's all about the games
Apple "seeded" advance units of the iPad to some developers. The distribution was heavily skewed towards game developers. I examine why

Unboxing video: Who didn't do one of these. I met the UPS guy at the depot so I could be one of the first.

Quick Tip: How to Get an iPad Today Without the Lines: Dovetailing my article on who gets to sell the iPad, I inform readers that resllers are one of the great places to buy an iPad without waiting in line

Put a case on it: Protect your iPad Day 1 : I limited this article to only cases you could buy on day 1. A brief review of the options on sale for purchase on 4/3/10

Walkthrough: Initial iPad Setup: a detailed step by step guide on setting up the iPad.

iPhone vs. iPad: Do Games Really Scale That Well: In this article, I examine iPad game scaling when compared to a game specifically designed for the iPad

Whew. April 3rd was a busy day for me!

Apple Creating a Genius Squad?

Welcome back everyone. The move from FTP publishing from blogger was harder than I thought!

I wrote this article back in March about Apple's new Joint Venture. We aren't sure what it was, but I had some ideas I wrote for TheAppleBlog

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving Day

We're moving! Standby for changes. If you see this text here it means we are reading from the google CNAME

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review:Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Peachpit Learning Series

Robin Williams has done it again! Another outstanding book for a new user of Snow Leopard and the Mac.
Robin's style is to expertly use page layout and screenshots to explain the features of an operating system in small bites everyone can digest. I enjoy the fact she doesn't talk down to her readers. She expects a basic understanding of how to use a mouse and keyboard. This book is designed for a Mac or even a PC user making the transition to Snow Leopard, either via upgrade or by the fact it came with the Mac. She walks the reader through all the features of Snow Leopard. Williams apologizes for not covering the iLife or iWork suites, but clearly points out this is a book on Snow Leopard. I'm sure she realizes that if the book were too big, readers would be intimidated. While it's over 450 pages, she uses a great table of contents and index to allow the reader to hone in on the info they are interested in. Want to know how to do screen problem? Just like Snow Leopard, I noticed a few "tweaks" in this book that made it even better than her Leopard edition. The screen shots seem to be better annotated as compared to last time and the book seems even easier to read.

The table of contents is organized into three main sections: "Mac OS X Basics for new Mac users", "Mac OS X Applications in Snow Leopard", "Make it your Mac" and "Tech Stuff". This allows the reader to focus on just what matters to them. She clearly spent lots of time making sure her book was extremely user friendly, just like the operating systems she covers. Not only does she cover practically all the features of Snow Leopard, but Williams includes great troubleshooting advice for when things go wrong. The advice she gives is as good or better than what you'll get on the phone calling tech support or stopping by the "bar." If her troubleshooting section doesn't cover it, you'll need a technician to come out!

My one complaint is that the author should have marked those features new or different in Snow Leopard. Doing so would allow an upgrader to focus on just those new items in Snow Leopard. This book is not intended for intermediate or advanced users. You won't find out which port to open for screen sharing or its inner workings--just how to initiate it. I compare her books to more "manual-like" books that cover every feature in depth. This book is designed to hold the readers hand through the process of learning.

Pros: Outstanding layout and organization. Excellent descriptions for novice Mac users. Enthusiastically recommend it to all new Snow Leopard Mac Users. Use this book as a starting point in your learning!
Cons: Not for intermediate users, no clear distinction of new Snow Leopard features

Five of Five dogcows.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Macworld Expo Tips: 12 iPhone Apps for Traveling to San Francisco

Although I wrote this a month ago for TheAppleBlog, this is still a great reference guide for people traveling to SF with their iPHone

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Review: the social media marketing book

Social media is one of the hottest topics in marketing today. Everyone puts "social media expert "on their resumes just like people put "Web Designer" on their cards a generation ago simply because they knew how to use Pagemill.

Dan Zarrella, however, is a true expert and does a great job of sharing his knowledge of social media marketing. Unlike other O'Reilly books, this is not a technical book at at, but rather targets a business market. No computer knowledge is necessary. The reader is given a complete overview of the landscape that is social media. Obvious examples like Facebook and Twitter are in here, but he also covers other web properties as well as blogging and how all integrate into a complete Social Media Marketing Campaign.

Each chapter covers a small social media topic in order to make it easily digestible to a "newbie." The book is well organized and includes a great table of contents and index along with a review at the end so you have a "takeaway" of where to go from there. If you already use Facebook and Twitter and have created a blog, this book isn't targeted to you. The book is designed for the traditional marketing manager who has been dragging their feet on creating a fan page on Facebook. Also the CEO of the company or the Executive Director of a non-profit might want to read this if they refuse to create a marketing manager position. The book is a very quick read--so no excuses for the boss to say they don't have time to read this. No fancy tips or tricks...this is the 101 survey course.

I do consider myself knowledgeable about Social Media so much of the book was an easy overview for me. Along the way I did gain a tip or two. If I had this book when I first started my Social Media Marketing Campaign I would have saved months of research and avoided many mistakes. If you've been reliably tweeting and updating your Facebook fan page, then you probably already understand the concepts in this book.

Pros: Assumes no background in social media and walks the reader through the entire landscape
Cons: Intermediate users of social media won't find much value in this, this is a novice book through and through

Four out of Five Dogcows

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Antivirus Software On Your Mac: Yes or No?

One of my more controversial pieces was on Antivirus software for the Mac. Ironically, it wasn't my analysis that seemed to bother readers, it was the fact I used the term Antivirus generically. I too agree that "malware" is a better word, but since the software industry refers to their products as Antivirus, it seems the best way of introducing the subject

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Apple Rumors Gone Amok

I hate rumors in any sense. In particular, I got quite fed up with all the iPad rumors. Although I wrote this a few days before the iPad announcement, I stand by my feelings that rumors are silly and useless, but nonetheless part of the Apple culture

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

iType: The Craziest iPhone Accessory Yet?

Before there was the confirmation of the iPad, a unique device came out to allow actual keyboard typing on the iPhone. I wrote a brief opinion piece for TheAppleBlog on this accessory that some view as unnecessary while others view it as essential. Maybe it's a bit of both

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Apple Media Plan Hits Your Cable Company Where it Hurts

This article I wrote for TheAppleBlog is my take on Apple's plan to take on cable company's directly. Although the "All Access" idea wasn't announced with the iPad, I still think the idea has legs. Read my commentary for more

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: Netbooks, the Missing Manual

Netbooks are the bright spot in the world of personal computers. More powerful than a mobile phone, but without the bulk nor the power of a laptop, netbooks represent the "just right" mix of features, portability and price.

The earliest netbooks came with various versions of Unix which made them downright scary to non-technical users. Then after some negotiations with Microsoft, a majority of netbooks now have Windows XP. Netbook owners running Windows XP will find little value in this book. The book assumes no background with Windows and walks the reader through the very basics of setup and usage such as configuring email or an Internet connection. What is missing for Windows netbook owners is general tips and tricks specific to the unique characteristics of netbooks. Biersdorfer briefly covers some ideas for backup and synchronization, but doesn't go in enough depth to really be useful and worth the price of admission.

In contrast, Biersdorfer's coverage of Ubuntu is invaluable for owners of netbooks that come with Ubuntu, such as the Dell Mini. I know when I first encountered a Mini with Ubuntu I was completely lost. While Ubuntu is intuitive, it takes some getting used to. Ubuntu doesn't come with a manual and Dell tech support as of this writing won't answer Ubnutu questions. Coverage of printer and email setup is something of value to Unix based netbook owners. All this stuff is out on the Internet, but this book is designed for the non-technical end user. The author's coverage is excellent and comprehensive.

If you have a Windows-based netbook, take a pass on this book as a majority of the explanations apply to any Windows based computer. However, if you have a Ubuntu based netbook, you'll find this book an invaluable resource to translate your Windows knowledge into the Ubuntu world.

Pros: Excellent coverage of Ubuntu for netbooks
Cons: Few netbook specific tips and tricks for Windows users

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: Apple Training Series: iWork '09

The Apple Training Series is designed to replace the classroom environment for learning a particular Apple program and it rarely disappoints. iWork '09 is no exception to this trend. This is not a manual on how to do certain functions within the program, but rather a comprehensive training program complete with a DVD full of sample content. Not only does this book walk you through real world examples of using Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, but this edition of the book focuses heavily on integration of iWork components with each other as well as with the Macintosh Operating System. Complex functions such as mail merges with Pages and Numbers are included. The book does not cover every esoteric aspect of the programs but rather focuses on the functions the average user would need.

This book relies heavily on brilliant full color examples of the concepts being taught. The reader is easily able to compare what is in the book to what is on their Mac's screen. "Teacher, did I do it right?" is easily answered by looking inside this book. Additionally, a review quiz is included at the end of each chapter to make sure you understand the current lesson before moving on.

While instructor-lead programs allow the student to ask questions and interact, the Apple Training Series is about the closest thing you can come to an instructor-lead program without having to leave your home, office, or coffee shop. I always love how the Apple Training Series includes a suggested time frame it takes to do the particular chapter so you can plan your schedule accordingly.

Pros: Excellent real world examples and clear instructions and output specifications
Cons: Absolutely none

Five out of Five Dogcows.


This article used with permission by the Lawrence Apple Users' Group. The original article written by David Greenbaum aka DoctorDave™ or incorrectly Dr. Dave can be found here.
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Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get your Sync on between a Droid and a Mac

This article was picked up by quite a few blogs, but I wrote it for TheAppleBlog. If you want to know how to sync an Android based "google" phone with your Mac, my article's got the answers

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book Review: SEO Warrior

This book by O'Reilly has an accurate title because there is a war on the web...the battle to get placement in search engines.

This very up to date book is your arsenal for either advancing your position or maintaining your ground on the web. O'Reilly books tend to be highly technical and SEO is no exception. About a quarter to a third of the book is simply not accessible to people who don't know how to set up servers or write advanced scripts. I know basic HTML and hand code my websites, but I found discussions of such topics as advanced XML a bit over my head. That's OK, because the rest of the book was great for novices

"SEO Warrior" is a complete guide to getting your page noticed by search engines. It's not just about Google rankings and keywords, thought that's clearly a focus. This book takes a 360 degree approach to Search Engine Optimization. It considers not just the code on your website, but such things as your ISP and host, external rankings by others, social media marketing and link building. I've read other books on SEO and this is the most comprehensive guide I've seen to help a business owner create a complete marketing campaign on the web. More technical readers will be able to copy and paste much of the code and examples directly into their website. Web design novices like me will be able to find tools online to help implement the key portions of the strategies found in the book.

As an example, I never really understood Google Webmaster tools or Google Analytics. I worked with both after reading the book and increased my SEO campaign dramatically. I had the confidence to create such things as a site map and learned how to properly configure my meta information to get the maximum exposure for my website.

A true SEO expert probably knows this information already, so the audience of this book is beginning to intermediate users. In particular, any business owner considering a SEO campaign should read this book to get an overview of the concepts. After reading the book, you'll be empowered to hire a SEO company if necessary. You'll learn the ethical and professional concepts for SEO and learn how to avoid the unethical "black hat" companies.

Pros: Comprehensive guide to all aspects of getting your website noticed
Cons: A bit to technical for people who aren't web designers.

Four out of Five Dogcows.


Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right