Monday, January 20, 2014

Software Review: Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery 6.0

Some things get better with age such as cheese and wine, and some things just rot and start to stink and that’s what I think of this version of Stellar Phoenix Data Recovery.

Previous version of this program were great and I’m a big fan but this version seems like one to skip!  While the program has more of a Mac look and feel than previous versions, it’s still contains spelling errors and grammatical nonsense that interferes with your ability to understand the functions. 

For testing, I took a drive that version 4.1 was able to recover successfully without locking up and took that same drive in version 6.0 and the program locked up or simply gave up on recovery.  Reran 4.1 on the same machine and the same drive no problems so this version clearly had problems.  Even before the program attempted recovery, it took sometimes a minute or more to load while previous versions and competitors only took a few seconds on the same machine.  Clearly version 6.0  is a step backwards not just in recovery but overall program function.  The “quick scan” it offers was significantly longer than previous versions and seemed to recover less data though it locked up quite often while doing recovery.  

When I ran into problems with the program during my tests I called the “24 hour tech support” and support  was about as functional as the program.  Language barriers made it very difficult to understand and instead of solving the problems or giving me advice, they asked me to install TeamViewer and leave it running all night since tier 2 only works during 9am to 4pm India Standard time.  Talk about a security risk!  I don’t like someone I don’t know messing around in my computer without my ability to monitor them.

Even the simplest of questions took at least 24 hours for a reply and often the answers were undecipherable and it took over a month for them to agree to even answer my questions without remoting in after hours.  Questions would go back and forth and I couldn’t get it escalated.  Almost two months to the day of opening my case, and waiting at least 24 business hours between replies I was told the program doesn’t work on a corrupt drive.  I can’t make this up!

Therefore, if you are looking for a recovery program try to get an old version of Stellar Phoenix or use a competitor’s program.  This program is slow, unreliable and the support is atrocious.

Pros:  More Mac-like interface
Cons:  Terrible support, program locks up on problem drives, slow to load

Two out of Five 

Hardware Review: Mobile Home

The Mobile Home has a very specific market:  your need a car that has built in Bluetooth that is compatible with Siri.  If you can press your home button and interact with Siri in your car, this is the product for you.  Basically it takes that home button function and turns it into a wireless device you can place in a safer position.

It’s about the size of a small garage door opener and it works best clipped onto your visor, but you can put it other places such as your steering wheel.  Pair it with your phone and when you press the Mobile Home button, Siri activates as if you were pressing the home button on your phone.

This is a safety device as it allows you to interact with your phone without having to fumble around.  When I first got it I thought “$80 for a home button” but after I had it I found myself using Siri more and picking up my phone less.  My hands stayed close to the wheel and moreover, I wasn’t tempted to look at my phone when I picked it up.  It was safer for me to press the Mobile Home button than it was to adjust my radio or my AC.

Since it’s a Bluetooth device, it must establish a connection with your phone each time you go in the car.  The problem is it has no way of knowing you are in the car, so the first time you press the button when entering in your car the Mobile Home “wakes up” and establishes its Bluetooth connection.  This is kinda annoying as it’s not immediately available to you.  What I’ve learned to do is if I’m going to be going on a moderate drive, I’m sure to wake up Mobile Home first.

This is really a brilliant device and the price is steep, but if you use your phone often in the car, this is a much safer way of doing it

Pros:  Easy access to Siri
Cons:  Delay in pairing, price

4 out of 5

Hardware Review: The Curb

The CURB is a great little device to carry along with your laptop or your tablet.  It’s a wedge of plastic that comes in a variety of colors and angles your device to keep it cool and to put it at an ergonomically comfortable angle of about 15 degrees. It even has a space for a charging cord.

I really liked this simple device to carry in my laptop bag.  While at a coffee shop my laptop was more comfortable to type with, stayed cool, and stayed away from the crumbs on the table.

At $16.99 it’s nice price for such a handy device.

Pros:  protects you and your laptop

Cons:  none

Five out of Five

Software Review: Reflector

Ever wanted to share your iPhone or iPad screen with someone else on a desktop or laptop instead of an AppleTV--as they say, there is an app for that.  Actually that capability is already built into iOS via AIrplay.  Reflector is a program you run on either your Mac or a PC that turns the computer into an Airplay device.  This allows you to mirror your iPhone or iPad display onto a computer running Mac OS X or Windows.  Moreover, multiple people can present at the same time.

This allows you to mirror what’s showing on your iPhone without having to use an AppleTV making it ideal for presentations.  We’ve used in our user group numerous times to allow participants to explain a problem they are having or to be shown how to do something -- and in particular the program has profound educational opportunities. 

The Mac version is extremely easy:  start it up and it shows up as a AirPlay device on any iOS device.  You can choose the background colors, screen size and, if you wish, password protect connections.  The Windows version is a bit trickier due to firewall issues, but that’s true of many Windows programs. On either platform, once you connect your iOS device your screen magically appears on your computer.  Just an FYI, you’ll be very tempted to try to control your iOS device from your computer until you remember only the screen is mirrored, you will still have to touch the iOS device to control.

One more thing, it also allows you to record these AirPlay sessions making it great for tutorials!  Whether you are demoing for sales or doing a tutorial walk through, Reflector makes it super easy.

The best feature though is the price:  $12.99.  This is really a bargain for an application that does so much.  They offer multipacks of the programs so it can be used by multiple users.  

If you’ve ever presented from an iPhone or iPad this is the app for you.  Easy to use, reliable and best of all you can record the sessions.

Pros:  AirPlay universality, screen recording price

Cons: You’ll be tempted to touch your Mac screen to control your Phone.

Five out of Five

Software Review: CollageIt Pro

This program has one purpose that’s obvious from the title: grouping photos into a collage.  You can arrange them via a variety of templates or go free form if you wish.  You can put up to 200 photos within a collage, though obviously they won’t scale well.  There are two versions of this program which is confusing and somewhat deceiving.  The free version only lets you create a collage while the pro version also allows you to crop the pictures as well as put text in them. The program provides essentially the same functionally as the Projects from within iPhoto but with slightly more options and you don’t need to buy a print after creating it.

Within the program you can import photos from iPhoto as well as drag and drop directly into the gallery.  Once you’ve got the pictures in the program you can arrange them on the page in a free form mode or using different templates provided such as mosaic, grid, center and pile.  After you know where the pictures should be placed on the collage you can then create a background and (in the pro version) add text and crop the photos.  You’ve got quite a bit of options here as to how things should look.  Additional customizations as far as number of rows, columns and spacing in between pictures are included.  The options can be a bit overwhelming, but the default settings do a good job.

Once you create your collage you can print it or export it as a picture file in a variety of file formats as well as directly as a desktop image, email, or into iPhoto or Facebook.  Once you’ve got it into iPhoto you then have all the great print options available within that program. The online help walks you through all the steps rather nicely

Although this is a one trick pony, the function it provides is really nice.  I dislike the two different program options as it’s confusing and the $29.99 price for the pro version is a bit steep, but if you’ve got photos that you want to arrange in a unique and interesting way and you want to extend it beyond iPhoto, Collage (Pro) is for you

Pros:  Great tool for making a picture out of pictures

Cons:  Price

Four out of Five