Jan 4 2011

The Google Chrome Notebook

Google publicly announced Chrome OS in back in July 2007. They’ve been busy building a lightweight browser-powered and cloud computing-enabled Operating System. Recently in, December 2010 Google announced a test pilot program for a Chrome OS notebook dubbed Google CR-48. On the day of the announcement, some insiders already had the CR-48 in hand but Google also opened up the test pilot program to the general public via a signup form. The signup was targeted to developers, educators, and individuals alike. By way of a Christmas miracle, I was able to land a Google CR-48 and have been using it for days now.

As soon as the details of the Google Chrome Notebook were made available I was immediately in love with the Google CR-48. It’s basically an ultra light weight cloud computing client running a slimmed down web enabled Operating System. The CR-48 is as portable as an iPad but with a full keyboard. The CR-48 has a smart track pad that supports iPad-like touch gestures. The CR-48 is always on, just like an iPad or Mac Air, so there is no boot up time when all you want is just check your email or post a tweet. That said, the CR-48 is not a official product and that is evident by the simple black frame, it’s even without a trace of corporate logo or Intel inside sticker. Because the CR-48 is not a official product, I won’t say much about the industrial design and finish of the hardware other than to say that unlike the iPad, it has a USB port and a SD slot.

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook

Google Chrome CR-48 Notebook

As soon as you open the CR-48 it turned on magically and prompted me to sign in. Unlike the iPhone or iPad, the CR-48 doesn’t require you to connect to a computer before you can use it. After some setup steps, you can sign in and take it for a run. As soon as you log into the device, you will see a Chrome browser taking up the whole screen with a single tab. It does take some time to realize that the CR-48 is a laptop with just one application, a browser. That is all it is, a browser. There is nothing to see, move along, it’s only a browser. Your desktop is your default page as shown in a Chrome browser. It merits repeating, the Chrome CR-48 only has one installed application, a Chrome browser.

As soon as you log into the CR-48 you find a browser in full window mode and if configured correctly with your home’s WiFi, you can start surfing the net. I’ve been using the CR-48 for reading blogs, checking email, liking status updates on Facebook, and accessing the web applications I use on a daily basis. Google does have a Chrome specific Web Store where you can install free and paid applications but I’ve not found anything of interest.

Aside from the technical specification of the Google Chrome CR-48 notebook, what is more interesting for me is that this is the first cloud computing client, a sort of Web 2.0 Thin Client. I am a avid user of Google Docs, GMail, WordPress, and other online services that have a large amount of my data in their respective ‘cloud.’

Realizing that this is a cloud client, privacy issues and data mining concerns immediately become apparent. It is already known that Google saves user searches and that with this and other identifying data they modify search results. It is already known that Google Adsense ads are targeted to the sites you visit. Can you imagine how valuable your browser history and usage statistics is to a company like Google? Google has a large amount of identifying information with from all angles of your browsing experience, from Google Search, Google Adsense, Google Analytics, and now Chrome and it’s Chrome notebook. I can see a future where Google would be giving away Chrome and Android-based devises for free because they can collect so much valuable information and up sell users with highly targeted ads.

The CR-48 is a great little notebook but a machine like that would never replace my laptop. At this time and with it’s current specifications, it can’t handle the hundreds of pictures I am known to take over a weekend, it can’t handle the gigabytes of video I take on a trip, and as great as Google Docs is it’s still not Microsoft Office. I see the CR-48 as a great web surfing machine while TV surfing.


Dec 30 2010

Apple Ruined My Neighbors Christmas

I just caught up for the first time since Christmas with my next door neighbor. They know I “work with computers” so they stopped by to see if I could help them with a small technical issue. One of their kids scored an Apple iPad from Santa but they haven’t been able to play with it. Apple requires you to connect your new iOS device, iPhone and iPad, with a computer and sync with your iTunes account before you can use it. You can’t even write a new text memo, watch videos on YouTube, surf online, send an email, much less purchase, download, and play games and music from the iTunes store before you connect your new iOS device with a computer. For five days now, their new iPad has been the best gift and the worst gift they received this Christmas.

I prefer the iPhone over any of the available Android phones, but the one thing I love about the Google Nexus One is that you don’t even need to plug to play. Just turn it on and you are on your way. Even updates are done Over The Air (OTA) so you don’t ever have to connect your Nexus One to a computer. The whole premise of Cloud Computing is that you don’t have to be shackled to a desktop.

I just had to walk through what my neighbor needed to do to set up their new iPad and you should have seen the confusion and disappointment in the parent’s and kid’s faces, respectively. In a nutshell, they have to download and install iTunes, create an iTunes account, connect the iPad with their computer, and then they can play a song or surf the web.

I can’t believe that Apple can revolutionize the user interface of the iPhone to have one button and yet have a complicated user experience of setting up their new iOS device.


Dec 24 2010

iPhone Frameworks

As mobile devices become more and more entrenched and as more mobile devices become available there is a growing number of people that want to quickly develop an idea into an app. Developers of all sorts are picking up Objective-C to develop the next top selling mobile-based and touch enabled app. If you don’t want to learn Objective-C, there are several mobile frameworks to choice.

    Rhomobile – A cross-platform mobile app development.
    Titanium – A cross-platform native application stack.
    MonoTouch – Write iPhone and iPod Touch applications in C# and .NET.
    iWebkit – A simple framework to create your own iPhone and iPod Touch webapps.
    TapLynx – Rapidly develop iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Apps without learning Cocoa.
    PhoneGap – PhoneGap is an open source development framework for building cross-platform mobile apps.
    jQTouch – A jQuery plugin for mobile web development on the iPhone, iPhone Touch, and other forward-thinking devices.
    Cocos2D for iPhone – A framework for building 2D games and graphical applications.

Nov 22 2010

The Ultimate Geek Gift Guide 2010

This geek gift guide is not so much for geeks and techies but for those that have geeks and techies in their life and need a little help in finding the right geek gift this holiday season. If you want to wow the geek in your life with the latest technology gadget you need to look no further.

The hottest piece of technology this year has been the Apple iPad. The iPad is great for geeks no matter their passion, music, photography, gaming, social media, etc. A geek that travels a lot would enjoy the 3G iPad so that they can always be connected no mater where they are. Whether you give the geek in your life an iPad or if they already have one, there are a ton of great accessories such as the iPad cases. I have been happy with the standard Apple iPad Case but for something more eye catching then consider the DODOcase. I also enjoy this leather portfolio iPad slipcase.

Targus Hughes Leather Portfolio Slipcase

Targus Hughes Leather Portfolio Slipcase

To get the most out of an iPad you need apps, for stocking stuffers you can consider getting a few iTunes gift cards which can be used to purchase apps, music, books, and movies from the iTunes store. I’ve already written regarding my favorite iPad apps.

Not every geek is into Apple products. Fortunately, there are other viable touch-based tablets such as the Google Android powered Archos 9 PC Tablet or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

For the avid reader in your life, nothing beats the Amazon Kindle. There are other electronic book readers but the Kindle is the most wished-for and most gifted ebook reader. The latest generation of the Kindle is smaller than previous versions and Amazon provides just about every top book in the Kindle format. What I love best about the Amazon Kindle is that your digital library is available to you in just about every device, iPhone, iPad, desktop, Android mobile device, and more.

This holiday season the most sought after family oriented game will not be on the Wii, it will be on the XBox 360. The XBox 360 has a set of games that do no require a controller to play, instead you play them by controlling the game play with your body. The Kinect Sensor has a series of camera’s that capture your body movements and uses that information to control the character in the game. The best game on for the Kinect Sensor has to be Dance Central. Dance Central doesn’t require any controller or pad for you to get down with your dance moves, you just dance in front of you television set.. The other games to look forward to is DJ Hero 2 and Rock Band 3.

Xbox 360 250 GB Kinect Bundle

Xbox 360 250 GB Kinect Bundle

As everyone already knows, the standard geek uniform is jeans and a t-shirt. Any self respecting geek needs to have some ThinkGeek shirts in his wardrobe. ThinkGeek gear is like Armani Exchange for geeks, binary fashionable and geek chic.

If you need more suggestions, take a look at previous years geek gift guides: The Ultimate Geek Gift Guide 2009, 2008


Oct 22 2010

Apple vs Andriod, History Repeating Itself

Philosopher George Santayana said that “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” Steve jobs who lived through the Personal Computer Revolution is set to repeat Apple’s fortunes in the Smart Phone Revolution. With the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, Apple took the lead in a novel mobile device segment, the Smart Phone. Prior to 2007, there had been a number of business class phones that at best emulated the desktop user experience in a hand held device but non had the traction to change the cell phone landscape. By 2007, the cell phone technology had dramatically changed that Steve Jobs was able to pack more computing power in an iPhone that ever before and he revolutionized the mobile user experience with touch screens. Apple later took another significant evolutionary step in what we consider a smart phone platform when the iPhone SDK was released to developers and the iTunes app store was made available to consumers. With years ahead it’s nearest cell phone competitor such as Nokia, Motorola, or Microsoft, and key patents under their name, and thousands of apps in their online app store, most pundits would have thought that Apple’s market share would in smart phones would be firmly cemented.

If the iPhone ecosystem were a country, it would probably be a little like China with a strong authoritative central government, some limited free enterprise, and tight censorship. Apple has a tendency to dictate what the customer wants, for example, the common Apple mouse still has one button while a typical windows will have on average 3 buttons and a mouse wheel. Apple has never been an open platform. Apple’s close platform has always been it’s Achille’s heal but also core to how Apple designs it’s products. With the release of the first Macintosh, the first commercially successful personal computer, Apple develop a technical and marketing lead to it’s rival computer makers. With the help of IBM, an open architecture was developed that over time was standardized to the de facto personal computer, this architecture developed over time to the modern desktop which might include a Intel chip, Microsoft Windows OS, and other off the shelf components. A closed platform will always little footing to compete with an open one, especially when hundreds of vendors provided alternatives to fit every possible need and price. Overtime Apple’s market share dwindled to single digits. But even with a very narrow market share, Apple has learned to be profitable, it knows it can charge a premium for beautifully designed products that simply work more often than they are infected with viruses or fatal crashes.

Even being an active participant of the Personal Computer Revolution, and having a front row seat as Apple’s close platform lost market share, Steve Jobs is using the same closed platform playbook with the iPhone and iPad product lines. This time, instead of IBM, Google is leading the charge with an open alternative to Apple’s iPhone. Google’s Android has been picked up by a large number of phone makers. There is a wide variety of Android phones in the market aimed a different consumers as opposed to the two models (iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4) of iPhone currently available from Apple. Google claims that at least 200,000 Android phones are activated a day. It is clear that history will repeat itself, and Android will eat Apple’s lunch, or at least take it’s market dominance. With market share comes developer’s mind share.

Apple has been previously before lit the fuse the set off a technological revolution. It first did it with the Macintosh which sparked the Personal Computer revolution and it has done it again with the iPhone with the smart phone industry. In both situations, Apple held a lead over it’s competitors but gave way because of it’s closed platform. In having a tight and stringent control over the iPhone, Steve Jobs has conceded market share to the Android platform.


Oct 22 2010

Favorite iPad Apps

It’s really hard to find really great iPad apps from the hundreds of thousands of apps available from the Apple iTunes appstore. I’ve bought a few apps that I’ve later regretted. In this post I’ll list the top five iPad apps, other than Twitter apps, that I love using on the iPad. I’m always looking for new apps to try out, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to list them in the comments sections.

Autodesk SketchBook Pro – My go to app for drawing a quick sketch for an idea, logo, or design is the Autodesk SketchBook Pro. It’s easy to use, has a nice selection of different brushes and patterns. One of my favorite features is the mirror, drawing one a line will produce a mirrored image of that line. I also like that the produced images can easily be exported at a high resolution. SketchBook Pro also supports multiple layers. There are few features I would like to add to this app. I’ve used images generated from this app in my Tumblr on many occasions.

Penultimate – Another favorite sketch app is Penultimate. This sketch app is a lot simpler and easier to use. Penultimate only has three pen widths and six colors to choose so I used this for rough sketches for ideas. The look of Penultimate feels like a Molskine notepad. Penultimate allows you to have multiple notebooks, each for a different project. You can export a page as an image or a notebook as a PDF document.

Amazon Kindle – I’ve had a Kindle since it was originally released and I have a lot of notes, highlights, and bookmarks for the Kindle ebooks that I’ve read. Even though I have a Kindle, the most common way I read Kindle books is through my iPad via the Kindle for iPad application.

Adobe PS Express – The Adobe PS Express is my favorite app when it comes to cropping pictures on the iPad. PS Express comes with a few commonly used photo manipulations such as cropping, straightening, rotating, and flipping images. It also has a predefined set of borders and filters to apply on your photos or image files.

Strip Design – Strip Design is a very simple iPhone and iPad app that allows you to create comic strip like panels. You can create a strip of one, two, three, or four panels. In each panel you can drop a different image. You can also add thought balloons and different stickers such as crazy looking mustaches or action effects.

Dragon Dictation – Dragon Dictation helps to transcribe to text what you say. This is really useful to record a thought and have it transcribed to text quickly. Dragon has good recognition, at least it has worked for me. I used Dragon Dictation when I want to jot down a idea quickly, then I emailed me the dictated text for final editing.