The Price is Right: Kobo Arc 32 GB $98

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Finally I found an Android tablet that was less than $100. I already have an iPad2, so I don’t want to spend a lot to get one and test the OS to see whether Apple’s iPad should really claim supreme.

I saw a demo unit at Staples that sold for $99, touched it, swiped it, and I was ready to buy if they had a new unit. They didn’t. I went Google it to read more about its specs, and Walmart came up because of web analytics. I went to the site and bought one.

arcAt $98 before taxes, this buy will be a no-brainer for someone in market for a budget introductory tablet. The least expensive one on the market with a decent made is Lenovo A-1000 8GB  7″, $114 at Costco. Samsung Galaxy Tab3 7″ is $167, and the nicer 8″ is $227, last checked at Costco too. I believe they all run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, Kobo uses 4.1.

The reasons I bought this were:

1. my iPad costed over $500, now at $399 retail, it is still an expensive gadget to lug around in my gym bag and use it while I am out. The Kobo, now, I can use it anywhere I want (Starbucks has the best Wifi connection, Tims’ never works for me), and best of all, no one will ever snatch it. Besides, iPad2 is just a tad too big to whip it out on the subway.

2. to use it to learn coding for an Android app. If you didn’t know. Android core system is Linux, and its apps are written in Java. Apple’s is running Xcode built on Steve Jobs’s NexT system, Mac OS and iPad app share some of the same codes. Microsoft’s Surface is just an extension of its Windows OS, developed in Visual Studio.

3. to see whether the divided is really about the features of two OSes, or something else?!

4. At $98, it’s a bargain, and an eReader no less . A MP3 player probably costs more.

[Android 1: Apple 0]

Directory:So I have been using my Kobo Arc for one week now, and have started with my app development lessons. The device connected by USB easily to my laptop, except you will need to turn on USB debugging in {}Developper options under Settings before it will show as a device on your laptop. On the laptop, you will need to manually install the driver, i.e., don’t follow the “suggested driver” in Windows. Once installed, you will be able to view all the folders in your tablet. If you have used Linux before, the organization will be familar to you. If not, try imaging a DOS system. I think this is part of the freedom people have been condemning Apple, and praising Android, cause there is no way to get to the source directory in iPad’s. In other words, any photos or pdfs you saved, you need an app to export them.

[Android 2: Apple 1]

“Home”UserInterface(UI): In my other posts I had been saying Android wasn’t as elegant as iOS,which I still hold to my opinion. Standardized icons for app make it easier for beginner to learn and use them quickly. In other words, variations are better for an intermediate to advance user. For the simple reason, they have the core knowledge of how things seem different but the same at the end. For example, holding down an icon in both systems mean you can do something with the icon, with iOS, they start to wiggle and an small “x” appears on each of the icon’s right side, it signals the available action of deleting an app that you don’t want anymore: one choice. With Android, no wiggle, but a garbage can will appear at the bottom of screen in the middle of an rectangler bar; it means you can put that app there and it will disappear from the home screen(s). Here is the different, iOS actually deletes the app, and if you have had stored it in iCloud, you can upload and install it again. So what happens to the one with Android? you can still find it in the main Menu(the circle with 9 evenly spaced dots).  To truly delete an app, you need to do it in Settings/app …uninstall.

The second choice, depending on the device, is that you can pin webpages or folders onto your home page(s) for easy access, i.e., non-app dependent. This is more a desktop OS methodology, open file and choose an app, instead of the other way around: open app and search file. The former gives you choices of apps, the latter restricts you. In other words, no app to play .flv on your tablet, too bad. That was and still is the uproars that iOS still doesn’t play videos that require Flash. Add fuel to fire, you cannot install the mac flashplayer file onto an iPad, cause there is no way to get to the root system files (of course, jailbreak it. Do you want to?) .

[Android 2: Apple 2]

Apps: There might have been a disparity when I was holding proudly my Google phone (HTC Dream), in regards to app selections, but the fight has narrow likens PS3 and XBOX games. Most popular apps are now bi-platform. However, I have to say, iOS apps run smoother than Android’s. So far, Android’s have been crashing more often on my KOBO Arc, but it could be a hardware issue. Hence, standardization has another advantage: Apple has full control of its QA. I need not to say more, we all have experienced Windows hardware conflicts. Linux is no exception. Once again, Android tablets use different types of screen and touch methods, so I find mine is not as responsive as my iPad.

[Android 2: Apple 3]

OS: Android OS is hardware dependent.To me it is a bit old school. This is no different from an analog watch to a digital one, none of them are compatible or upgradeable, but they satisfy their objective to tell time. And if you are trendy, chuck the old, buy a new. That’s a waste of resources. The life-cycle of an Apple product is about 5-10 years. I told in another post, I still am using my 2006 80GB iPod classic, and it connects to the most current version of iTunes. On the other hand, a few apps I tried to download for my Arc returned saying incompatible, which mean 4.2 must be the lowest denominator in the Android world. Luckily, most of the popular apps still run on 4.1. Those don’t likely have a desktop web version, so I use a web browser instead, e.g., CNET app.

At the end of the day, which one to use is really based on the level of knowledge you have with computer. In other words, the more you know, Android will be better, cause you like to tingle with things. For the curious youngster and the older seniors, an iPad will be better for them, cause you really don’t want them to delete or reformat the drive by accident.

For me, $98 is like another pair of sneakers. I have no problem putting it in my gym bag.

Cheers.

Netbook: Win7. It works.

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Three or four years back, there was such a thing called netbook. Inexpensive, smaller and lighter, with slower processor that meant to be used by students and light users. Since then iPad and tablets have put nails in its coffin.

However, what to do if you still have one and worse than anything else, it is running on defuncted WinXP (Microsoft no longer supports it).

Finally, I took the courage and upgraded my Gateway LT31 with Win7. Now I feel like having a brand new netbook.

Why did I postpone or wait? Because Microsoft’s Win7 upgrade readiness application told me that if I were to do it, there could have been missing drivers, blah, blah, blah. I remember checking Gateway’s site before, it wasn’t promising that they provided them(I must have overlooked).

The process was surprising straight-forward: put in the upgrade disc, boot from it, and follow the instructions. It will collapse your old Windows files to a folder called Windows.old, where you can get to files that you might have saved in different users’ folders. So your documents are saved after the upgrade, just that you need to know where to look for them: Find Users and Documents.

After all the steps was finished, the system ran exceptionally fast! Then I loaded all the most current drivers from Gateway, including flashing BIOS. Followed that were the software: Malewaresbytes, Microsoft Essential, CCleaner, Avast, and MS Office suite. It slowed things down for sure, but still with respectable respond. I also turned off Aero theme and put it in Classic to save on CPU power.

When the announcement came out that Microsoft no longer supported WinXP in 2013, I did venture back to Ubuntu. Version 12 was an improvement and quite user-friendly, but I ran into display driver problem, and gave up on finding a solution. So I still don’t get Linux as an OS; it will never have popular appeal, sorry. I am talking about trying to like it since Corel Linux in 1998.

Lesson learned: Microsoft just wants you to buy new machine! Resist…your older machine is likely still useable even with newer OS. Win7 is probably the best MS OS out there now.

Cheers.

CPU Hog: Windows XP svchost -k netsvcs

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The last two days, my XP netbook came to almost a halt after five minutes of usage. As usual, I went right to Task Manager to see what was causing the problem. I discovered one of the svchost processes was using 99% of the CPU power. Out of frustration I deleted it, which gave about a 2 minutes relief and I could use Chrome for a short while, and it came back again. I was worry my system was hacked! (Don’t we always?)

After some research, I downloaded Process Explorer, which gives more information about the processes being run. I checked the one svchost (bundled up dll processes) that was causing the problem, and it had at least 10 processes running, which freaked me out as likely hack attack. I ran Malwarebytes and MS Essential, and luckily no viruses or malwares were detected.

After more research, bingo! Apparently, there was a problem for some XP machines with the latest updates. The halt was Windows trying to figure out which updates to apply, which meant looking through your entire system for clues.

Finally, the solution was getting the proper (IE # and OS version) patch and download and install it. Google MS13-097. This will reset all the updates to where they should be, so that you can continue to use Windows Automatic Updates.

Honestly, this is not something for a novice, cause most likely they don’t even know where to start. Although XP is no longer supported starting Jan1, 2014, Microsoft should not ignore its users like this. I read there are still 37% XP users of the entire MS OS ecosystem.

Cheers!

Windows Media Center vs. iTunes Home Sharing

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Update (Oct 29, 2013): With Home Sharing turned on and iTunes11, all my devices(iPad, iPhone, Netbook) are synced with my main PC (i3, Win7) with medias in an external HD! Sweet. No fuzz with Win Media Center anymore.

How: with your iPad, iPhone, open Music app, and look for Share in More… click your library. For other PC, install iTunes and turns on Home Sharing.

(Nov, 11,2012)So I had been using my 7 years old resurrected HP laptop as a media center with my music library residing in one of my external HDs. It had been doing a decent job, but sometimes it had been a hit and miss; for example, adding new materials, sometimes, they showed up and other they just didn’t. It took me a while to learn to play all songs with shuffle, and to do a search (it only takes up to 4 characters I remember). I used it for about a month, then I figured out it was easier to pop a CD into my DVD player to play music with my AV receiver  (Those you attach with big speakers!).

Anyhow, a light bulb moment today! Since I have to turn on my main laptop anyway for either streaming – Windows Media Center or iTunes – and I have my iPad, why don’t I use iTunes’ Home Sharing instead? Besides, my music repertoire is already in iTunes. The only worry I have is the output quality through the headphone jack to a pair of RCA plugs to my AV receiver, I test it and it sounds decent!

So what is nice about using iPad as my media center instead? Well, everything is now touch base! and the library recognition is painless and seamless. What you see in iTunes is what I get on my iPad, and ‘Music’ app is easy to use and to find and pick songs. I can also stream videos with Home Sharing.

How to turn on Home Sharing in iTunes (PC): Find the Advance Tab, Turn-on Home Sharing using your Apple ID

On iPad, iPod Touch, and  iPhone under music>settings>turn-on Home Sharing, and ‘Music’ app, under ‘more’ >sharing>select your music and video library.  This means I get the same libraries on my iPhone too, an additional tool to play my music and videos at home.

With the PS3 system, it will recognize Windows Medias automatically if you turn your sharing on in the PC. That’s another option to stream your medias at home. I guess that’s the same for the Xbox 360.

Now I don’t have a Window Surface, so I don’t know if the touch-base experience will be the same?! With an Android tablet, I believe Boxee is perhaps a good option, it works with iPad too.

There you have it, I figure it will be cool to use this setup for your Christmas Party! Sure, you can download music to your iPad and plug it to one of those extended speakers, but with my way you have access to thousands of songs !!! and additional audio settings with your AV receiver.

Cheers.

PC… who needs it, anymore?!

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I was at Costco yesterday, I was totally surprised to see that there was a desktop model on display, the others were All-in-One loaded with Windows 8.

I think owning an All-in-One is just silly. Imagine standing and swiping away like a restaurant waiter to get to the webpage you want, or worse try typing a letter in WORD using the screen-keyboard. Sure, you can sit and do the same, but I bet after 10 minutes, your arm will get tired. Besides, All-in-One is not new! If you have been following the evolution of Microsoft’s OS, Acer and HP had touch-screen all-in-One since Windows 7, just that no one was buying them. To be honest, even if an iMac 27″, I doubt I will get one, or salivate to get one; it’s just not practical. This will only make sense if you using the computer passively: watching videos, playing music and games, etc.: touch here, touch there…

If you connect the dots, iPad and tablets are doing exactly just that. Sure, you may also occasionally type an email, reply to text, post a picture, … but the difference is that tablets and iPad are lighter and totally mobile. I can type anywhere I want with a blue-tooth keyboard, and it is just as good, if not better.

Another point why PC is dead? Before you might need to bring work home, but laptop has become so cheap that you likely can use one of your offices’ to do real work. It means the days you had to use your home computer to finish a report was so yesteryear. Likely, you get a laptop on loan, and VPN into your office network to get the files you need, and work away. This also means even thumbdrive is another technology of the past; besides, your company probably never allows you to download stuff on a thumbdrive anymore for security reasons. Remember those thumbdrive-gates, where public servants lost drives with sensitive information on them, and worse they were un-encrypted?!

Of course, some will argue that they still need a home computer to edit their photos, home movies, and stuff like that. Seriously, how many people are really doing those?! Never mind some people still have a hard time understanding an OS! Besides, Photoshop, InDesign, iMovies, …are really meant for the pro.

So it became apparent last week when I decided to get the last few bucks out of my Netbook (remember those?!), I installed Lubuntu hoping to get more speed out of the thing: Gateway 11″ LT311h, WinXP. It did and I was happy that finally everything was working with this Ubuntu version 12.04. Its WIFI was working seamlessly (three years ago, I was still struggling with it to recognize my router, and it never did, I used ethernet …long story). My next dilemma was whether to get a new battery, so that I could use it at cafés, etc, and mostly for writing stuff like this. Gladly, I didn’t. I found an inexpensive ($14) blue-tooth keyboard, Logitech designed by ZAGG, to pair with my iPad2. In fact, with iOS7, it works even better.

Here is the deal, companies like CloudOn, Google, are offering workable version of Office derivatives (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in the Cloud, and files created are sync-able with Dropbox, Google Drive, and the likes, which means as long as there is a WIFI connection, I can work on those files as I please. Of course, one caveat is that you may not want to work on anything confidential on an open Hotspot. But at home, it’s game!

So iPad and tablets are in and laptop will soon be out, but not entirely, students still need them. Commercial laptop will remain, unless we revert back to terminal.

Mind you, I still prefer to write my blogs using my 15.6″ laptop, but for simple outdoor writing with a café au lait, my iPad/Logitech duo is nothing but perfect: light, truly functional, and practical now!

P.S. I use iWriter (Apple’s App) for basic non-format writing.

Networking Win-Xp with Win-7

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If you still have Win-Xp machine(s) around in your household and want to network them with your Win-7 machine(s), it is not hopeless. Here are the steps. Oh it only took me an entire afternoon to figure out with googling and trials and errors, so it should be easy for you now.

Before I get to the steps, you need to understand the architect behind the two systems are  totally different. I believe Win-7 is built on the more stable corporate platform Win2000, so its networking methodology is certainly different from Win-Xp, which derived from Win98…

Differences:

1. Win-7 connection with Homegroup of other Win-7 machine is easy as long as you name it correctly in all machines. Miraculously even media sharing is quite easy to set up, i.e., PS3. There is something called media sharing in network sharing to enable that function.

2. Win-Xp has NO Homegroup,  but Workgroup. So before with an all Win-Xp network, you did the same naming all machines with same name like the Win-7 above, and you will be able to shares drives and map them if you wanted to…

Steps:

1. Do the same and consider Homegroup and Workgroup are the same thing, so name them identical so that all machines despite OS version will find each other.

2. If you do it correctly, you should see on either machine its Network Center(7) / My Network Places (Xp) displaying named PC/laptop, at this point, if you click on it, likely, it will say “…talk to your administrator” or “… need permission”

3. Most important: on Win-Xp machine, right click on the folder or drive will give you the option of “sharing”, the thing is “Network sharing and security” is turn-off, so turn it on, if it isn’t so. Then as usual click on “Share this folder on the network”. On Win-7 machine look at the setting of rights of Public Doucments . That’s how I finally figured out to get files from my Win-7 machine, cause it showed up on my Win-Xp automatically, and I had no problems getting to files. On the other hands, other folders gave me “… talk to administrator…”, until  I put “Everyone” in the rights  in “Choose people to share with…”.  To get there:  Right-click on folder you want to share, Select Share with / Advance Settings. The share drive should be //xxxx.xxx  , click Share button will bring to the “Choose people to share with…”

4. Caveat: I haven’t set up password for folders yet, so you may have researched this if you want to make sure no one can hack into your networked folders.

There you have it, as usual Microsoft !!

P.S. I remember in the 80s, a regular phone cable is all you need to network two Mac Classics, and you just had to set rights of what each could see or not see.

Cheers.

Kobo Mini @ $38 (cdn)

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Since Christmas, the Kobo Mini had been selling at $55 each, and I was very tempted to purchase one, as my experience of reading on my iPhone was not the greatest: bit heavy, slippery holding it, and reflection under the sun. With so many books(paper) yet to be read in my house, I let the idea went.

Anyway, long story short, at $38 the 5-inch Kobo is the right price for an e-reader! It’s light, and I can borrow books in Adobe ePub format from my library. It reads well-no reflection like on iPhone or iPad! The touch screen is not the most sensitive and accurate for annotation, but I can bear with it. Although it comes with a broswer like other e-readers, it’s not the fastest yet it works fine. Regardless, I have other devices to surf the web while on the road, so it was never a deal-breaker.

For the e-books you get from the library, they have to be downloaded to Adobe Digital Edition (with registration) first, and upload to e-reader through USB  connection to your computer, which is really just drag & drop.

Bottom-line, it is a great little device that people may overlook and go for the 7″ Kobo Touch or Kindle’s (over-price IMO) instead, but you should really buy this; it’s value for money.

I went through my first book within two days, and it felt great on the eyes, in my hands, and on subway.

But iPad is still a better choice for reading pdf documents; it’s awful with Kobo.

Cheers.

P.S. $38 at (Canada)Bestbuy, Futureshop, and Walmart.

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