Friday, July 13, 2012

Microsoft Surface - Can It Compete With iPad

Better days for Microsoft?

Everyone in tech is aware that Microsoft, the company that gave us Windows, has seen better days. Ever since Apple took over as the #1 computer company in 2004 after the fiasco that was Windows Vista, Microsoft has been struggling to get it's mojo back. With the premiere of it's Surface Tablet, Microsoft might be heading for brighter days. Maybe. While you can get a cheap tablet online for under $200 with a TigerDirect, or Newegg coupon, this isn't the market Microsoft aiming for. It has Apple in it's crosshairs, and success all depends on if the Surface Tablet can match the mighty iPad in price and performance. If it doesn't, this could be another fiasco for Microsoft like the Zune mp3 player, the Kin phone, or Windows ME and Vista. Microsoft has to be very careful about this one-it can't afford another failure.

The Surface Tablet-specs and info

On the surface, everything looks good. The Surface Tablet comes in two models; the Surface RT for home users, and the Surface Pro for business users. The Surface RT has USB 2.0 ports, runs on an ARM processor and only has 32 to 64GB of storage. The Surface RT is the bare-bones model for Web surfing, online videos, email and basic desktop programs. It's for the home user who doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles. Surface Pro, 128 is for the business user who needs a full blow Windows OS, dependable Web connectivity and a more powerful machine. It offers an Intel dual-core 128 processor, up to 128GB of storage, USB 3.0 ports and other such perhipherals for the business user. The most innovative thing about the Surface Tablet is the cover, which also doubles as a keyboard. That is a very attractive option for those who haven't gotten used to having a keyboard on the screen rather than a traditional keyboard. Also, the cover snaps right on without using magnets (the Apple solution) or not having a cover at all.


The big problem with the Surface Tablet so far is that Microsoft will be manufacturing these models with only Wi-Fi connectivity, instead of wireless broadband connectivity. That might present a problem, especially for business users who need connectivity, wi-fi or no wi-fi. Another big problem is the Surface's low battery life. Compared to the iPad, which has a 10-hour battery life, estimates have given the Surface Tablet a battery life of 7.5 hours, which is 25% less than the iPad. Another problem is cost. Microsoft is looking to take tablet giant Apple on by launching the Surface. Granted, the iPad is expensive, but not half as expensive as the Surface Pro, which will start at well over $600. Granted, the Surface RT is going to go for $500. However, since the iPad starts at $499, Microsoft is deliberately overpricing itself. In these more cost-concious days, that's not going to go over very well. If Microsoft is looking for a much needed success with the Surface Tablet, they might need to reconsider some of these problems like cost and battery life if they want to overtake Apple.

That said, the important question to ask at the moment is this: Do you want to give up your iPad for a Surface Tablet?

Melinda Tanner is a freelance technical writer with over 20 years experience in various fascets of technology.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Google Works

Millions of people a day go to and type in something of relevance to them.

They may be searching for music videos, finding a local plumber or researching new cars; however most everyone takes this commodity for granted.  But for those curious folks out there, have you ever wondered how Google sifts through billions of documents to find the 10 best for any search term you can throw its way?

While it probably would take a few days to truly comprehend the phenomenal amount of data crunching that is necessary to do this in under a second, long-time Google employee Matt Cutts attempts to break it down and give you a brief history of Google search in under 8 minutes!

Check out his video below:

Anyone who deals with websites understands how important Google search can be to their marketing plans, and if there's anything that Matt Cutts stresses, it is that quality content is the number one factor for succeeding long-term with Google.

When you build quality content for your readers and develop an audience, Google begins to take notice and that is when you start to see your traffic increase.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Does My Computer Have Bluetooth?

It is common that folks who already own a MacBook or PC will buy a Bluetooth device, such as a mouse or keyboard, but then after the fact ask themselves a simple question: Does my computer have Bluetooth support?

Don't fret, because it is very easy to find out whether or not your computer supports Bluetooth communication. And even if it does not, there are external options like a USB dongle which will add Bluetooth support for all of your devices.

For Windows

As far as operating system support goes, Microsoft has included native support for Bluetooth with the releases of Windows Service Pack 2 and 3.  Before these versions, it was necessary to manually install the drivers for your Bluetooth hardware.

To find out if your computer has Bluetooth, go to the Control Panel, and look for the Bluetooth Devices icon as shown in the screenshot below.

If you don't have this "Classic View" option, Go to "Hardware and Sound" and under the first menu option, "Devices and Printers", look for the link to "Add a Bluetooth device".  If you see these links or icons you should be ready to connect new Bluetooth devices.

An even better way is to check if your computer has the hardware to handle Bluetooth.  To do this, you may  go to the Search Bar in the Windows Start Menu and type "Device Manager", then click on the first item to open.

You can also right-click the my computer icon on the desktop and go to "Properties".  From there you will find the link to the Device Manager on the left sidebar.

With the device manager open, find and expand the network adapters menu. If your computer supports Bluetooth then you will see one or more adapters listed as shown here.

For Mac OS X

While Bluetooth support is varied among computers with Windows operating systems, it is widely supported by almost all of the latest couple generations of Macs and MacBooks.

There are a few easy ways to find out if your MacBook has built-in Bluetooth.

First, take a look at your menu bar at the very top of your screen for the Bluetooth icon, because this is a clear indication that your device is looking for nearby devices to connect with.

If this is not visible, click the Apple button at the top left of the menu bar and open "System Preferences".  Look under the "Internet & Wireless" section for the Bluetooth icon and open this screen if the option exists.

If you see the following screen which states that Bluetooth is on when the checkbox is ticked, you are ready to rock!  You will also find the checkbox at the bottom of these screen which toggles whether or not Bluetooth status is displayed as an icon in the menu bar.

Much like Windows, if you want to dig deeper into the actual hardware you may do so by clicking on the Apple button at the top left of the menu bar and then click "About This Mac".  From here, select "More Info".

This brings a screen which gives you an overview of all the devices, storage and memory associated with your Mac.  To further inspect the hardware select the "System Report" button.

This will display a list of all the hardware components that are part of your system.  Select Bluetooth from the left sidebar, and if there are hardware settings listed then you know that your computer has the necessary adapter to work with Bluetooth devices.


So there you have it - several ways for both Windows and Mac to answer the question, does my computer have Bluetooth?  If you still don't see any trace of Bluetooth, check an online electronics retailer for external USB Bluetooth adapters which will work plug-n-play style to give you full support in any scenario.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Instagram Acquired By Facebook

Instagram, one of the most popular photo sharing apps for iPhone, has announced that they have agreed to be purchased by the most popular social networking site, Facebook.

This mega merger comes very shortly following Instagram's long awaited release of an Android app, and will cost Facebook $1 Billion.  While this is a hefty fee, it gives them a powerful software base to help build and streamline their photo sharing services.

Despite the transaction, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom assured it's users on their blog that the app and platform will not be changing anytime soon, having this to say:
It’s important to be clear that Instagram is not going away. We’ll be working with Facebook to evolve Instagram and build the network. We’ll continue to add new features to the product and find new ways to create a better mobile photos experience.

The Instagram app will still be the same one you know and love. You’ll still have all the same people you follow and that follow you.You’ll still be able to share to other social networks. And you’ll still have all the other features that make the app so fun and unique.

We’re psyched to be joining Facebook and are excited to build a better Instagram for everyone.
This deal is sure to reverberate for a few days as the effects slowly begin to take shape.  Many are comparing this to the deal Google made to acquire YouTube and its video services.

Only time will tell if this deal is as successful for Facebook as YouTube was for Google, but for the folks and investors at Instagram this is a very nice payday for many years of hard work.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Flipboard for Mac or PC - Alternatives

If you own an iPad or an iPhone, there's a good chance that you've heard of the app called Flipboard.

Flipboard presents your social and RSS feeds in a beautiful magazine style layout which is easy to navigate between pages swiping gesture.  With account integration including Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader, it's no surprise that it has become one of the more popular apps available on the App market today.

However this popularity has caused an increased demand for a Flipboard for Mac or a Flipboard for PC version.  The company has acknowledged this demand, giving the following statement:

"We definitely believe the desktop is part of our future, but it's still on the whiteboard and not something we are launching soon. The desktop requires a lot of attention to design and UI and we'd like to take the time to get it right."

I have also found confirmation from an employee via their Support Forum that they are going to look into a PC version as well as a web app which is compatible with multiple hardware platforms and operating systems.

Until that becomes a reality, we are stuck with finding alternatives to Flipboard for Mac.  Below you will find a solid list of useful RSS readers and other magazine style apps which will suffice until an official Flipboard version is released.

Google Reader

Google Reader does a nice job accumulating your feeds from across the web into an easy to use interface.  It may not be as elegant as Flipboard however I have been a user for several years and their most recent UI update was very well designed.


Feedly is another web-based app which you may sync with your Google Reader account.  The layout of Feedly is slightly more clear and straightforward compared to it's competitors which many of its users find appealing.

Ride Surfboard is a pretty cool service which allows you to plug in a URL, and it presents all the articles from that URL into a magazine style layout with pages.  This web app uses HTML 5 and CSS3 technology, so you want to be sure to use a modern and updated browser when you view this site - preferably Safari or Chrome.

This is another cool Social Reader, which finds links shared through friends on your Twitter account and builds these articles into a newspaper style layout.  If you have a professional Twitter account, this is a great way to see important industry news at a glance.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Top 6 Productivity Apps for iPhone

The iPhone is an amazing device when you think about the multitude of ways it can help people run their businesses more efficiently.

Unless you are coding or doing graphic design work where you need a computer, an iPhone along with its plethora of apps is likely all you need get the job done from anywhere in the country.  With this entrepreneurial spirit in mind, let's highlight some of the more useful productivity apps available on the App Store.


As much as I like Apple products, I still have an overwhelming affection for many of Google's services. The main reason I was hesitant to switch to an iPhone was the lack of a native app, but I am happy to say that since downloading the new Gmail app everything has been running smoothly with my daily communications.


Dropbox is and incredibly easy to use file syncing app which works across multiple platforms.  Every free user gets 2GB of storage and can obtain more by referring friends or upgrading to a Pro account.

This app on all of my devices gives me incredible flexibility when I need to access important business files away from the office.  In addition it has provided me another layer of backup for all my important files between my main PC and my MacBook Pro.


If you own a website or run a blog, then you need to download the WordPress app today.  While you won't find every feature on the web-based administrative panel, it gives you a simple way to edit content or interact with your audience while you can be by your computer.

There is also built in support for multiple accounts if you run several websites.


If you love gathering news feeds from across the web for personalized articles to keep you in the loop of your industry, there is no better app than Flipboard.  The main reason that I chose Flipboard was because of the Google Reader integration, and since installing it I have not looked back once.  The app also features Twitter integration so you can read your feeds and tweets in the same place!


The LogMeIn service allows you to log in and control a remote computer from anywhere as long as you are connected to the Internet. Not only is this helpful for your own computers, but if you have any clients that need computer work it is a great way to save a trip to their office.

You would think it might be difficult to control your computer from an iPhone given the lack of screen space, but the developers have done quite a nice job to include a good amount of touch functionality along with a very crisp screen display to make the transition as seamless as possible.


I know there is a lot of fuss about the new and cool to-do list app called Clear, but I am quite happy with GoTasks - and mostly, again, because of how friendly it is with Google Tasks integration!  While I am working on my computer I like to leave a tab open with Gmail and daily tasks, and now I can update these while I'm on the road.  While the graphical interface is not as fancy as Clear or other apps, it is minimalistic and very intuitive.

These are the apps that I live and die by on a daily basis - but what about you?  If you have any productivity apps that make your life easier, post them in the comments below!

iPhone 5 Release Date

UPDATE - 4/9

An employee at Foxconn is now refuting this previous report, saying that they did just receive an order but they are not going to be out until Fall of 2012 - which is what most industry insiders expected as the likely date.

Several rumors are swirling around the computer world that the new iPhone 5 is going to be released sometime this summer.

With close to 20,000 jobs opening in China for electronics manufacturing, you might say that where there is smoke there is sure to be fire.

No official announcements from Apple have been made, however there is wide speculation regarding the upgrades and features that we are likely to see with the iPhone model.  Some people even believe that the manufacturing is not for the iPhone, but instead of for a Mini iPad.

Our bet is on the iPhone, and I anticipate that it will come with a wide variety of updates to appease the masses who did not think the iPhone 4S brought enough features to warrant a release event.

Regardless of the stealthy route that Apple has decided to take, one thing is for sure -- when the product is released it will be followed by mass hysteria around the globe!