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Friday, October 12, 2012

Farewell, and Thank You For Everything!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Thoughts Media Status Updates" @ 11:59 PM

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss

Twelve years ago today, when I made my very first post on Pocket PC Thoughts, I couldn't possibly predict the journey I was taking the first step on. What an amazing, fulfilling, character-defining dozen years it's been! I'm so deeply indebted to all the people along this journey I've befriended, talked with in our forums, and yes, even gotten into rip-roaring arguments with. It all brought me here. So where is "here" exactly?

Back in September of 2011, I shared that I had taken a job with HTC, was moving from Canada to the USA, and was selling the Thoughts Media Network. Over the past year, I've had a truly amazing time working at HTC. It's a wonderful job - it's really amazing the things you learn/realize working on "the other side" of the blogger/OEM equation - but it's also all-consuming. My multiple attempts to sell this network all failed, partially due to my lack of time to really follow through. I won't bore you with the details, but let me give some advice to any business owners: when someone offers you a nice chunk of money for your business, and you're ready to sell, don't drag your feet on the paperwork - you never know when that offer will vanish! Oh, and sell when your revenue and momentum are at their peak; don't hold on too long. Evidently these are lessons I needed to learn the hard way. Lessons to teach my son I guess. :-)

So where are things at now? This won't come as a surprise to anyone who has watched what has happened to most of the sites in our network over the past year: all six sites across the Thoughts Media Network will go into a permanent state of hibernation effective tonight. This is the final post you'll see on all of them. I care deeply about all of the amazing content the Thoughts Media Team collectively created over the past dozen years, so my plans are to keep the sites online for as long as possible. One week from now, I'll shut down the forums so no new posts can be made. Right now only comments can be posted if you already have an account that has posted in the past - we've had to lock things down in that way to prevent spamming. If you have a message to share with me but don't have a forum account, please send it to me directly.

I'd be remiss if I didn't give one final thank you to the amazing team of people I had the honour of working with over the past twelve years. I don't want to list names, because I'll doubtless forget someone. Suffice it to say though that I've been humbled and blessed by the generosity and effort people put into this community. From the words you've read, the videos you've watched, the spam-free forums you've read through, to the designs of the pages and the code and server loading them when you visit - none of that could have been done without the gifted volunteers who collectively helped me create everything that these sites were. I'm deeply indebted to literally hundreds of people who walked with me on this awesome journey over the past decade. THANK YOU!

Also, a big thank you to the community itself. All you who came back here, day after day to read and watch our news and reviews, rants and raves. Thank you for your comments, your clicks, your shares, your views. None of this would be possible without you. Remember too the part you play in the success of any Web site: you matter, so support the sites you love so they can keep doing what you want to see.

And so, this is the end. If you'd like to keep in touch with me, please reach out on Twitter (@jasondunn) or check in on my personal blog now and then. What an amazing journey this has been...thank you!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mobile Devices on a Plane Revisited: Yea or Nay?

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad" @ 12:00 PM

"Will the familiar warning for airline passengers to "discontinue the use of all portable electronic devices" become a relic of the past?


Every so often the FAA reviews its policies limiting mobile device usage on airplanes. They're at it again, but it must be mentioned that this particular study does not include the use of mobile phones while in flight - that's the FCC's domain. The FAA claims (in a study performed "last year") that they have 75 documented cases of consumer (passenger) electronic devices interfering with on-board systems, and the new study group aims to either confirm or debunk the current conventional wisdom that mobile devices can interfere with instruments, specifically during takeoff and landing. Skeptics point to the fact that tablets and laptops may be used by the crew, during these critical times, but not used by passengers. The study goal is to determine the what, where, when and why for the existing rules and regulations. While I do think that the rules are a bit one-sided in favor of the airlines, I'm not really that inconvenienced by having to turn off my laptop/phone/tablet during takeoff and landing. Safety trumps convenience in my opinion. How about you?

Samsung Windows 8 Slates: Series 5 and Series 7

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:30 AM

"We're still a couple of months away from Windows 8 being available, but we're starting to get a pretty good picture of what the first round of devices will look like running the new operating system. Samsung just showed off the upcoming Series 5 and Series 7 Slates - both are tablet and dock combinations that let each device act as a light, thin tablet, and a full-fledged laptop all at once."

Looks like the ASUS Transformer concept (tablet + keyboard SECURELY connected) is going to be a feature in upcoming Windows 8 Slates (Tabtop or Laplet?), at least from Samsung with their Series 5 and Series 7 offerings. The 1366x768 resolution Series 5 will be offered as a tablet-only at $649, or a tablet+keyboard combo at $749, with 2GB RAM and a 64GB SSD. The more robust Series 7 offers full 1080p resolution, 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD, and will start at $1199. Each device will also ship with Samsung's "S Pen" for onscreen activity. Arrival date is expected to be October 26, 2012, to coincide with Windows 8's arrival. Anyone besides me think that this keyboard looks an awful lot like a MacBookAir? Not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Notes from an iOS User: My Week with a Google Nexus 7

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Android Slates/Tablets & Accessories" @ 01:30 PM

"My first Android experience has been very, very positive, thanks to Google's Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). I received my tablet a week ago, and also received a $25 Google Play credit as an early purchaser. My initial thoughts were that I'd use the tablet primarily as a reader - but it's much more than a Kindle (Fire) replacement."

As a longtime iOS device user, and like most modern device users, I have my biases, and have kept them firmly in mind when using an Android device for the first time. But, maintaining objectivity has been easy with this tablet. I'm guessing that skipping the earlier Android releases have saved me from some amount of frustration, just as skipping earlier iOS versions would have in the iDevice world. The bottom line is that so far I'm not finding much missing from Android.

I have several "must haves," including Banking, Browsing, Calendaring, Contacts, Dropbox, Email, Facebook, Foursquare, Kindle reader, LinkedIn, MS Office-type apps, PDF reader, Search, Skype, Text editing, and Travel apps. All present, and arguably equal to the iOS versions. Not as many app choices from Google Play, but all I need is one of each.

Things that I like so far, in no particular order: Android 4.1.1 - already one patch automatically downloaded to Jelly Bean; Battery life is very good; Customization is as simple as the iPad - the home screen is easy to configure; the display is very, very good - not quite up to the new iPad, but excellent for much less money; Sound quality is good; Security is good - face recognition login authentication can be configured to require a blink, making security stronger; Performance is excellent - I haven't noticed anything crapping out or any lags in performance, at the app or UI level; Shutting down running apps is a breeze, much simpler than iOS; Removing apps is easy; Reading is a breeze on this form factor - no more carpal tunnel holding and reading an iPad. Comfortable to hold and use. Many pros to this device!

Things that are less than stellar (and I admit freely that maybe I just don't know enough about Android yet): Apps on the home screen cannot be ordered or arranged for a whole screen - must be dragged and bumped individually; Setup options are not as rich as iOS; iCloud mail is handled a bit better in iOS, as one would expect; Google Play Store doesn't seem to have an easy way of selecting "tablet-only apps," aside from Staff Picks for Tablets. A pretty short list of cons.

Overall, a very positive experience so far, and, while I'm not dumping my iPad, my Nexus 7 is already getting more use than my earlier small tablets, a Nook tablet and a Kindle Fire, both of which were too restrictive for me, and were sold pretty quickly. For the money (I got the 16GB model), this is a superb tablet, and the Android experience is a pleasure. I like the fact that it is not "carrier specific," so it has none of the bloatware associated with subsidized devices. The Nexus 7 is a keeper!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google Improves Android Security with Jelly Bean

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 09:30 AM

"In an analysis published Monday, security researcher Jon Oberheide said Android version 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, is the first version of the Google-developed OS to properly implement a protection known as address space layout randomization."

Diagram showing attacker overwriting a return address with a pointer to the stack that contains attacker-supplied dataWikipedia

It's great to know that Google is taking mobile security seriously and working to improve it. This sounds like a large step in the right direction. I was also surprised this was the first I had heard of this change being in Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. Another feature new in Jelly Bean I heard of recently is a "Safe Mode" to make sure a problem you're having is not app related.

What's your favorite new feature in Jelly Bean?

Friday, July 6, 2012

The ASUS Google Nexus 7: A Performance Beast

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 09:00 AM

"Note to all tablet makers not named Asus: This is how you make a 7-inch tablet.

The Nexus 7, the first tablet to wear Google's Nexus brand, sets a new standard for smaller slates, proving that just because it isn't as big as Apple's iPad doesn't mean it can't be just as useful, as fast, or as fun. If you've been on the fence about Android, or tablets in general, this is the tablet you've been waiting for."

Most of the initial hands-on reviews for the wifi-only Nexus 7 are positive, and this one is no exception. The biggest complaint so far has been the lack of tablet applications for Android, so, for example, the user can be "stuck" with up-sized phone apps for popular apps like Facebook and Twitter. The near-IPS quality 1280x800 screen, at about 216ppi, is superb, and the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 coupled with 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of storage, is, as the author puts it, a beast. The first Android 4.1 Jelly Bean tablet screams, with none of the earlier OS hiccups, and the price is right, at $199 for 8GB, and $249 for 16GB. Out of the box, the tablet is obviously Google-centric, but can be tweaked, and the full Google Play store is available. Early purchasers (I was one) receive a $25 credit for the store, so I'll be able to add my obligatory "MS Office" equivalent. Shipping is scheduled for mid-July 2012 (I hope) so check back here as we review more real world experiences with the Google Nexus 7 from ASUS.

ARCHOS ELEMENTS 97 carbon Tablet Announced

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 12:00 AM

"ARCHOS, an award-winning innovator in consumer electronics, is pleased to introduce the ARCHOS 97 carbon, the first of its new tablet range called "ELEMENTS", an entry-level line up of 7, 8, and 9.7 inch tablets that combine ARCHOS design and engineering with full access to Google PlayTM and a full suite of Google apps at an affordable price."

Interesting to see the new tablets coming to market at consumer-friendly prices. This 9.7-inch tablet sports an IPS screen, plays 1080p HD video, weighs 21.8-ounces, and is 0.45-inches thick. With a 1-GHz processor (no further processor details were available), 1GB RAM, and 16GB storage, the Carbon 97 is running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) 4.0 and is set to debut this July (2012) with a price of $249.99 or less. Interesting to also note that the carbon 97 supports expandable memory via SDHC cards up to 32GB and (or?) USB flash drives from a full-sized USB port. It'll be interesting to see if ARCHOS can crash the tablet party, and give the bigger players some competition at this price point.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dell Expands Flagship XPS Line: Adds XPS 14 & XPS 15

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Dell Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:30 AM

“Following the success of our XPS 13, our customers wanted to see more of the XPS brand,” said Sam Burd, vice president, Dell Personal Computing Product Group. “The XPS 14 and 15 laptops offer powerful performance, thoughtful design and a superb user experience, along with enterprise-friendly features so you can use them for work and for play.”

To complement their existing XPS 13 Ultrabook, Dell has added 14-inch and 15-inch XPS models.

Touting the XPS 14 as having "up to 11 hours of (8-cell, non-replaceable, 69WhH) battery life," it has an aluminum chassis and a silicone base, Intel Core i5 or i7 processor options, 4GB RAM standard (8GB max), 14-inch 400 nit HD+ edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass WLED display, a backlit chiclet spill-resistant keyboard, and optional high-performance graphics. A wide variety of options are available, including Intel's RapidStart and SmartResponse (startup, hibernate and caching improvements) technology, using a traditional hard drive plus a 32GB mSata card to achieve SSD-like performance. A 512GB SSD option is offered. There is a mobile broadband (WAN) option that adds a back leather back to improve radio performance. Interesting that Dell offers an "Ultrabook configuration" even though the XPS 14 weighs in at just under 5-pounds (2.1kg).

The 5.8-pound (2.6kg) XPS 15 has an aluminum chassis with a silicone base, a 9-cell 65WhH battery ("up to 8 hours, 11 minutes" battery life), an edge-to-edge 15.6-inch 350 nit Gorilla Glass WLED screen, a choice of Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 6GB RAM standard (16GB max), NVIDIA Optimus graphics, a backlit chiclet spill-resistant keyboard, and an option for a slot-loading Blu-ray disc drive. Curiously, there appears to be no SSD-only option from Dell for the XPS 15, at least in their press release.

The XPS 14 pricing starts at $1099, and the XPS 15 starts at $1299, with both models available now.

Tags: dell, xps, xps 15, xps 14

Monday, June 18, 2012

Microsoft Surface: A Well-kept Secret Emerges

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 08:30 PM

"We saw plenty of crazy transforming tablets at Computex Taipei a couple of weeks back, even some that ran Windows 8, but nothing that could have prepared us for what Microsoft itself is building. The company unveiled a pair of 10.6-inch tablets dubbed "Surface" today, and they sound pretty sweet, with built-in stands, covers with embedded keyboards, and cases molded out of vapor-deposited magnesium ("VaporMg") with neatly beveled edges for a (hopefully) comfortable grip."

Who says that technology companies can't keep secrets? Microsoft's announcement of their new Surface tablets and accessories seemed to take the blogosphere by surprise.

Microsoft demoed only the magnesium-encased Surface for Windows RT version, with an NVidia Tegra (ARM) processor, 32/64GB SSD, weighing in at about 1.5-pounds, 9.3mm thick, with a 10.6-inch screen and a 16:9 aspect ration - labeled as "HD." The back contains a workable kickstand, and several 3mm cover keyboards were shown, that magnetically attach to the tablet. The battery will be 31.5Wh. This version will run Windows with desktop and MS Office, but will NOT run legacy applications. This is the "consumer" version of Surface.

The second tablet, Surface for Windows 8 Pro, will sport an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, and be somewhat larger, 13.5mm thick and about 2-pounds. With a higher resolution display, labeled "Full HD," a larger 42Wh battery, larger SSD offerings, and higher-speed ports (USB3 vs USB2), this tablet will run legacy Windows applications, MS Office, and of course new Windows 8 Metro apps. This is the "professional" or "prosumer" version of Surface.

With these announcements, the Windows 8 tablet race has quickly ratcheted-up, and other vendors are quickly releasing specs on their competitive products, many already touting themselves as being better than the new MS tablets. Now we wait for further news on price and availability. Anyone ready to buy a Surface?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gigabyte gives its Ultrabooks a Graphical Boost

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"Ultrabooks with Intel’s 3rd Generation Core Series processors may be good enough for productivity tasks, but we wouldn’t recommend playing Batman: Arkham City on them. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a thin-lightweight notebook and one with strong graphics performance. While it’s not marketed as a gaming rig, the new Gigabyte u2442 14-inch Ultrabook comes with an optional Nvidia GT640M graphics chip, but weighs a reasonable 3.46 pounds while measuring just .7 inches thick. "

When netbooks came out, they were an interesting proposition. They were lightweight, mostly had a reasonable battery life and just enough computing power to get your day to day tasks done. Those days are over, with the rise of Ultrabooks. Thin and light, just like a netbook and with a good chunk of juice to last the day. However, while ultrabooks come with a little more horsepower than your standard netbook, they still lacked any graphical strength. Integrated graphics are much better than days of yore, but they still fall short when playing any of the more demanding modern games.

It is really a relief to see some manufacturers take notice, and offer ultrabooks with discrete graphics. If only they can emphasize this benefit more. Most people I have met show more interest in the speed of the CPU and the price tag. Hopefully they will realize that a happy laptop experience means taking more into account.

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