• Devices

    by Published on 01-15-2014 08:38 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    I'd like to thanks TELUS for providing Howardforums.com the review unit of the Samsung Galaxy Gear first and foremost, so thank you TELUS.

    When the Samsung Galaxy Gear was announced I had the same reaction as i'm sure many of you did. "What, why, what's the point?" Once those thoughts settled and I had moved past them I started thinking if I had one, how would I use it? Would I take advantage of all its features and would it really impact my daily life enough to warrant its pretty steep entry price?

    I asked Howard if he had one that I could review because that's always easier then spending my $ on something I may just not like and low and behold, here we are!

    First things first, let's get this out of the way.
    Do you wear a watch currently?
    Yes? Carry on then.
    No? Nothing for you to see here, move along.

    Why do I say this so abruptly?
    Quite honestly, if you don't wear a watch now and you're interested in a smart watch the Galaxy Gear may not be for you. Firstly, there's the well known "issue" of it working with Samsung only hardware so all you HTC / Nexus / Blackberry / Nokia and all need not apply. Secondly, this isn't a small watch. I have fairly large wrists and I found even for me it was a big large. However, style is personal and some love huge watches. 50mm watch sizing shows there's a market for that. Now don't get me wrong, the Gear is not a 50mm watch, but for me it wore like one. Big, brass, bold and it got attention.

    So with all that out of the way let's get this party started.
    For this review I had the Gear paired with my Note 3 for those interested.
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    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:27 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    The WeMo Motion from Belkin is available separately for $59.99 or part as a combo pack with the WeMo power switch which I reviewed a while back for $79.99.

    The Motion consists of the motion sensor and the power brick which are permanently connected via a 6ft long power cable.

    Officially, it has a range of 10ft but I observed that it’s actually closer to 13ft.

    The idea is that you put the sensor in one spot while the switch goes elsewhere.



    You set up rules to tell your other WeMo switches to turn on (or off) when the Motion senses movement. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:25 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    WeMo Switch and Insight I reviewed the Switch recently. While I liked them, it took me a while to find a use for them. When it comes to things I want to turn off remotely, the first thing that comes to mind are lights and I just don’t have a lot of lights which plug into the wall. Aside from the lights in my garage and on my nightstand, everything else is in my ceilings and controlled with light switches. Luckily, the Belkin WeMo lineup also includes a light switch.

    The WeMo Light Switch looks just like a standard decora light switch but it’s actually connected to the internet and can be controlled using your iOS or Android device just like the rest of WeMo’s lineup. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 02:49 PM
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    Folks,

    I just had the opportunity to try the Nokia Lumia 625 on TELUS during the holidays. It is a mid-range smartphone running on Microsoft Windows Phone 8.



    Design and Specifications

    Front and center is the Gorilla Glass 2 wrapped, 4.7”, 800x480 IPS LCD display. As far as quality goes, viewing angles and readability under bright light conditions are just average. Colours are little washed out and there is some colour shift. The 800x480 resolution sounds a bit low for a large 4.7” display. Indeed, while it is not the sharpest display available on the market it is not as bad as you would think.

    At 133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15mm and weighing 159g, its size is similar to many other smartphones. While I liked its minimalistic, clean slate design, I had some problems with its ergonomics. I found it hard to hold without accidentally triggering the soft keys and hard buttons. Hopefully, a case can fix some of these problems. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 07:48 AM
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    The electronics industry, it seems, has a dirty little secret. Circuit boards, cameras, mobile phones and more all rely on conflict minerals — gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten that is mined with little regard for human rights in war-torn regions of Central Africa.

    Danish filmmaker Frank Poulsen exposed the child labour and horrific conditions of a typical Congolese mine in his 2010 documentary Blood in the Mobile — I saw and wrote about it in 2012, but four years after the film was made the problem of conflict minerals is still not widely discussed.

    There has at least been some progress... Intel announced at this year's CES that their 2014 microprocessors will be conflict mineral-free. And in the mobile space, a company called Fairphone has shipped its first batch of ethical smartphones to early adopters. Someone on reddit posted photos of their device to r/Android; I thought them worthy of re-posting here.

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    by Published on 01-07-2014 07:58 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News
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    As promised, here's a round-up of mobile-related product announcements at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

    My understanding is that the bulk of major press releases happened yesterday, leaving today and tomorrow for attendees to get hands-on time, interviews, etc. A helpful itinerary published by Android Police more or less confirms this.

    In an effort to stay within the scope of these forums I won't be mentioning the webOS-powered home electronics from LG or Belkin's WeMo Smart Bulbs. Instead let's get right to the phones. And tablets. And maybe a hotspot...

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    by Published on 01-03-2014 07:45 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    Last November I wrote about the third smartphone ecosystem, and wondered which one it would be. Some stats I linked to claimed it was Windows Phone that was trailing Android and iOS worldwide, but there is actually another contender for third place. If you're willing to accept a small cheat, the third most popular smartphone platform might, in fact, be Android.

    According to a report from Baidu, China has some 270 million Android users. But unlike here in the west, 70% of those users don't use Google's Play Store. Because Android is an open source platform, any hardware maker is free to take and use it as they see fit.

    All this is only to say that Android is hugely popular in China. And the good news, for us, is that some of their best products are coming our way.

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    by Published on 12-20-2013 08:12 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    This week Walt Mossberg wrote his final tech column for The Wall Street Journal. He's been at it since 1991, and in those dark days before the tech blog explosion he held so much sway in the industry that WIRED magazine dubbed him The Kingmaker.

    In his parting WSJ missive Walt chronicles a dozen tech highlights of the last two decades. Not to be outdone, I've come up with my own list of thirteen notable mobile devices in as many years. And as an added bonus, I'm not retiring!

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    by Published on 12-16-2013 07:50 AM
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    I kind of went full fanboy when I ordered my Nexus 5 last month. My $399 order ended up being quite a bit more after I added an official bumper case, an official sleeve for my Nexus 7 tablet and this year's Nexus Wireless Charger, seen here.

    "Wireless charging", while technically correct, is a bit misleading — inductive charging is the proper term. Wikipedia explains how it works; all I know is it's the greatest thing I never knew I needed.

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    by Published on 12-06-2013 08:10 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps
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    In documenting the trials and tribulations of rooting and modding my Nexus 5 I had noted that I chose OmniROM as my custom firmware of choice. Part of this is pragmatic— Omni is one of the very few ROMs available for the Nexus 5. And part of this is political, which we'll get to in a bit.

    Had I stuck with stock firmware I could already be enjoying a better camera experience via Android 4.4.1 — instead I have to wait, so why bother with a custom ROM in the first place?

    My goal for today is to answer that question, with a closer look at OmniROM.

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    by Published on 12-05-2013 07:50 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
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    For all my bluster in a previous post about how trivial it is to make a Nexus your own, I seem to have conveniently forgotten that achieving root is sometimes not as easy as I've made it out to be.

    My seventh rooting of a Nexus device — that's five phones and two tablets in total — took place yesterday afternoon. The welcome screen you see above is what most users would see on first boot; for me it was a much more elusive prize. What should have taken twenty minutes was instead a two-hour ordeal, entirely due to my own impatience in getting my new toy up and running the way I wanted.

    The cool thing about getting yourself into trouble is that you learn stuff along the way. So I've documented what happened to me in order to share that knowledge with you.

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    by Published on 12-04-2013 08:02 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Apps
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    It wasn't supposed to end this way.

    I had one final task for my Nexus 4, and thought I had the means to accomplish it. I was supposed to be gloating today all about how I was finally able to stick it to the banks, my carrier, even Google, by making a successful purchase using Google Wallet.

    Instead, this.



    How did we get here? Read on for my sad tale of fail...

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    by Published on 12-02-2013 08:33 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Tips
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    Heh, "cyber"...

    I have to laugh because back in the late 1900s people actually referred to the Internet as "cyberspace". In fact, you could stick "cyber" in front of pretty much any word and instantly make it cooler, more terrifying or both — cyber-sex, cyber-bullying, cyber-fries, etc.

    Anyway, Cyber Monday is upon us — even in Canada, despite the fact that our Thanksgiving was back in October. It always seemed a more sensible shopping holiday than Black Friday; why risk getting trampled when you can browse deals in your pajamas from the comfort of your home, hot coffee in hand? And that's exactly what I'm doing this fine December morning.

    The following are some notable mobile-related deals that have piqued my interest. It's not in any way meant to be an exhaustive list, only a few examples to kick off a wider discussion. Feel free to add your own via a reply, whether you live in Canada or otherwise!

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    by Published on 11-29-2013 02:14 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    While a new LG G2 would be nice, not everyone wants or has the means to sign a contract on an expensive plan. They also don’t want to spend $700 on a new phone. So what can you get if you’re on a prepaid budget?

    Now, since most fancy phones are available on prepaid, I’m putting a $200 limit on the cost of the phone. $200 is still a sizable chunk of change but to be honest, if I set it lower there just aren’t enough phones that I would recommend. Let’s check out the contenders. ...
    by Published on 11-29-2013 08:11 AM
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    2. Devices
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    The idea that the market can bear a third successful smartphone OS has been bandied about a fair bit, but the source is not often cited. It was Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam who, way back in September of 2011, introduced this idea to tech bloggers who, in turn, picked up and ran with it.

    The direct quote:

    "The carriers are beginning to coalesce around the need for a third ecosystem... Over the next 12 months I think it will coalesce and you will start to see one emerge as a legitimate third ecosystem."
    At that time the race for third was between BlackBerry and Windows Phone; two years later this still looks to be the case, albeit with a few new contenders at least.

    In my short time here as a front-page blogger I've had the opportunity to spend some quality time with at least three of the third-place contenders — BlackBerry (in its latest incarnation), Firefox OS and Windows Mobile. The somewhat ambitious goal for today is to crown a winner.

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    by Published on 11-28-2013 09:05 AM
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    Before I left the bed this morning to begin writing my girlfriend pulled me close and whispered softly in my ear:

    "BlackBerry sucks."

    Thanks to a care package from Howard we are now suddenly a BlackBerry family — she's got a Q10 and me a Z30. I have to say that the word which best sums up our experience so far is "frustrating".

    The swipe up/down/left/right thing isn't really a big deal. In my first hour or so I did spend a fair amount of time pressing the BlackBerry logo below my Z30's screen, hoping for a home screen to appear. I eventually got used to swiping up instead.

    My issue is with the home screen itself.

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    by Published on 11-27-2013 08:25 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    How long should an electronic device last? You're probably thinking why does that matter but I've run into a major problem with my Mac Pro that's now 7 years old. It's a beautiful machine that has been powered up 24/7 for 95% of those years. I've maxed this computer out with 16GB of RAM, 6TB of hard drives and an SSD. I can't ever go back to using just one monitor and I've learned my lesson to back up everything. I think it's hardware failure and I have this theory that Steve Jobs' ghost has entered countdown code to doomsday… right on the eve of the new Mac Pro being released. I'm a huge Apple fan and am fully aware of the company's fallibility. I had my video review ready to post and I found my computer off the next morning unable to get past the screen with the Apple logo on it.

    Here's where I'm going with this: for the premium I pay Apple, I expect their products to outperform and outlast the competition. I do not have this same expectation for Samsung. It's not a bad thing if that's what their business model is designed for (i.e. high volume, low margin).

    One other point is more of a challenge: can you post a review (with photos and video clips) using only a tablet? I had high hopes for the Note 10.1 but it's not quite there yet. Apart from not being able to create an article on this forum, I think we're almost there. Howard? Any takers on that challenge?

    Bottom line for those with a short attention span: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition has outstanding specs on paper but doesn't execute appropriately. In other words, it doesn't get the horsepower to the road. The Apple iPad is still the clear leader in this field. I see the potential in the Note 10.1 but it might be the 2015 Edition that pulls it all together. ...
    by Published on 11-21-2013 08:10 AM
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    To do yet another graffiti walk would be, in my opinion, a disservice to the Lumia 1020. Most modern-day camera phones can deliver acceptable results with vivid colours in bright light — as per previous examples here and here. So for the Lumia I tried something different: I took it with me on a dinner date to a new ramen joint in the neighbourhood.

    All of the images that you'll see in this post, save for the one screen grab below, are embeds from my Flickr account. That way you can click through and see them resplendent in their full 41 megapixel glory should you so choose.

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