Microsoft's flagship tablet running Window 8 Pro goes on sale in Canada and the United States on February 9. The device is the most-important released to date running the operating system, for what it seeks to accomplish and means for Microsoft. Critics call Windows RT a failure (I disagree). Distribution is the problem, if any, and that's easily remedied.
Still, RT badmouthing puts Pro perceptions in a bad spot. Microsoft's public relations team responded by getting devices out to reviewers and setting an embargo of 9 pm EST February 5. So four days before launch, a bunch of reviews exploded across the InterWebs around the same time. Younger reviewers from trendier tech tabloids tend to talk up Surface Pro while older fogies and those from more consumer pubs are more hesitant. I'm among the few old farts who get Surface and what Microsoft strives to achieve here. Then, again, I've covered the company for a long time.
Surface Pro is magnificent. A classic. It's the Windows experience you longed for but were denied. The tablet is a reference design for what -- and what not -- Microsoft OEM partners should achieve. The device is the past and future, pure personal computer and post-PC. Simply put: Surface Pro is jack of all trades, both master of many, and (gulp) none. Capabilities astound, yet quirks abound. But even they are endearing, giving Windows 8 Pro personality and dimension.
For the past five days, I've had the privilege of using Surface Pro, which goes on sale February 9, as my primary PC. That's not enough time to fairly evaluate the tablet, which is why I write a first-impressions review. I'll add much more as my month with the device progresses. For now, I will share my early reactions, while offering context about Microsoft's objectives for the product and how well it achieves them. Unquestionably, Surface Pro isn't for everyone. But it could be for you.
The HTC Windows Phone 8X is a smartphone that you will either love or not want to touch even with a 10 foot pole. Part of the arguments for and against it stem from the operating system of choice, Microsoft's latest (and greatest) Windows Phone iteration. Sure, the device has good build quality and the software is fluid and responsive, but the app selection is currently lacking compared to rivals like Android and iOS. So where does one draw the line between success and failure?
I've been using the Windows Phone 8X for almost two weeks and the early impressions are still on the positive side. In my initial review I touched on a number of points that I found revealing for my brief time with it, but the real test is how the Windows Phone 8X fares over a longer period of time. My main and initial gripes concern the limited app selection and general usability issues of Windows Phone 8 when coming from the stock flavor of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The real question is this: Is it good enough?
Before anyone labels me as an Android fanboy, let me tell you this -- I like Windows Phone 8, I like it a lot. Even though my smartphone of choice is the Google Galaxy Nexus running either of the two Jelly Bean iterations, Microsoft's mobile operating system has always appealed to me, especially the latest iteration which is by far the best of the bunch. I’ve always wanted to review Windows Phone 8, but there was one big problem -- I couldn't get a review unit for an in-depth look at it. So I did what PR folks were not expecting -- I bought an HTC Windows Phone 8X.
So why the Windows Phone 8X? There are not many devices running the new OS at the moment, but in my part of the world the selection is even more limited -- HTC is the only manufacturer that currently sells a Windows Phone 8 smartphone. The price is also very attractive at EUR479 which is marginally less than what the Samsung Galaxy S III goes for, for instance. By contrast the Nokia Lumia 920, which is not yet available locally through official channels, costs more than EUR700 at major retailers, a price difference that I cannot justify at all. So, as you can imagine, the Windows Phone 8X is my one and only choice.
What do you really want from a security suite? Most companies appear to believe the answer is "as many features as possible", and so they’ll cram their products with as many vaguely security-related tools as possible, in the hope that the sheer weight of functionality might win you over.
Comodo Internet Security Pro 2013, however, takes a very different route. There’s no spam filter here. No parental controls, or backup tool. And it won’t add warning icons to your web page search results. Instead, the program concentrates very much on the core security basics: detecting and removing known malware immediately, while preventing even brand new threats from causing any damage.
Are you looking for competition to Netflix and Amazon Prime? By now you have likely heard that Redbox has teamed with Verizon to provide just that. The kiosks, which can be found almost everywhere these days, are quite popular with a number of people, but running out to a store, especially in bad weather, is not overly user-friendly. When the snow is flying, it is so much nicer to get the movie you want without leaving your couch.
Redbox has been testing its new Instant service in private beta for a couple of months now. If you want to try and get into the program then head over to Redbox Instant and request a code, but be aware that the wait can be long. In fact, with the service expected in early 2013 you may just be better holding off.
There has been a great deal of enthusiasm about making indie movies on Digital SLRs (and even some television -- Joe Wilcox of this parish reminds me that an episode of “House” was filmed on a Canon 5D, as was one of the BBC’s “Wallander” episodes). There are two main reasons for this enthusiastic adoption -- firstly, both camera body and lenses are incredibly low-cost compared to a conventional digital TV or movie camcorder, and secondly, they have full-frame (35mm size) sensors to give that shallow depth of field “film-look”.
While I’ve followed all this with interest, I’ve never personally been fully convinced.
While the cloud generally provides for better reliability than on-premise systems, having a solid backup plan is still a universal necessity. Cloud solutions like Google Apps and Office 365 have nearly eliminated the notion of data loss due to technological failure. The systems and processes in place that govern the storage of your important data with players like Google and Microsoft are rock solid. We can fault providers for service downtime any day of the week; but you'll be hard pressed to read about cases where they actually lost your data.
The biggest issue with data loss on cloud platforms lies within the acute problem of human error. We aren't perfect and will likely always be dealing with data loss stemming from incorrect clicks, mistaken deletion, and other similar circumstances. For this very reason, even with its inherent safety nets, the cloud needs a fallback of its own.
A month has passed since I started using Nexus 10, Google's first 10.1-inch tablet, which Samsung manufactures. iPad is reason for the delay writing this review. I bought the first three generation models and sold each within two months. The appeal didn't last, in part because of the user interface's long-term limited utility. So Nexus 10 faced resistance before I opened the box and for another, compelling reason: I was (and still am) hugely satisfied with sibling Nexus 7, which form factor and feel in the hand hugely appeal. After a month of testing, just to make sure, I don't plan on selling the larger tablet; its immediate fate won't be that of iPad 1, 2 or 3.
I definitely recommend Nexus 10 to anyone considering a tablet this year in the $400-$500 range. Nexus 7 ($200-$300) is a better option for the budget conscious -- or even Kindle Fire HD ($300-$600). I don't recommend iPad 4 or mini. They cost too much ($329-$829) for the benefits, and iOS has fallen behind Google and Microsoft operating systems. My experience with Surface RT is limited, but the tablet makes a great first impression such that it's worth considering -- and easily over Apple's larger tablet.
Soon after Apple replaced Google’s aging but accurate mapping solution with its own brand new, but woefully inaccurate alternative, I -- like many disgruntled iOS 6 upgraders -- switched to using the web-version of Google Maps (I briefly toyed with Nokia Here, but it’s not yet as good). The workaround was fine, but I only ever viewed it as a temporary stopgap while awaiting the triumphant return of Google Maps to the App Store, something that finally happened a couple of days ago.
Google Maps shot to the top of the free charts with indecent haste, further embarrassing Apple in the process, as users scrambled to install it. I installed it too, naturally, but held off on reviewing it immediately, as I wanted to make sure my happiness at its arrival wasn’t going to cloud my judgment. And the good news is, having now had plenty of time to play around with it, it’s great. Not perfect, but pretty damn close.
At face value, Podio is a very tough product to describe. Parent company, Citrix, describes it as an "online work platform", which tends to be fairly accurate, but is a definite understatement. Podio has the social likeness of Google+ or Facebook, but don't think Yammer here (Podio politely offers sociability -- it doesn't force it down your throat.) Podio leverages a powerful cloud-based CRM platform that is highly customizable, a la Salesforce. Yet it also happens to integrate useful tabular functionality and spreadsheet importing/exporting to and from Excel. So what the heck exactly is Podio?
After one month of living personally and professionally on Podio, one thing I can say is I know what it isn't. It's not a platform for those looking for a simple cookie cutter solution to a single problem. The product is targeted towards companies small and large willing to invest a little time to get a lot in return. That return, more specifically, is functionality and flexibility. Podio tosses out the "800 pound gorilla" approach to software and instead offers a different perspective: you build it, and they will come.
The LG-manufactured Nexus 4 is nearly perfect. Unless you have no other choice, perhaps because of unsupported cellular carrier and binding contractual commitment, put Google's newest smartphone at the top of your must-buy list. The device satisfies in all the right places -- battery life, call quality, display clarity, size and visibility, operating system and performance. There are other Androids with comparable or better hardware, but they typically slap on a secondary UI and ship with older OS. It's not the measure of one attribute, or even a couple, but many combined that make Nexus 4 so good.
But nearly isn't perfect. Nexus 4's flaws, while subtle, will be serious for some potential buyers. There is no 4G LTE, for example. The feature is built-in to the Snapdragon processor but not properly enabled. The phone is HSPA+ for data, which works on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile USA. No LTE is a deal-breaker for some people, as seen in commments here and elsewhere. Something else: LG copied Apple, which put glass on the back of iPhone 4 and 4S and rightly abandoned the design with the newest handset. Double-sided glass makes the phone less durable than should be, particularly if dropped. Finally, many Galaxy Nexus users won't find its successor to be a compelling upgrade; much depends on what they use their phones for.
If you want to get directions on an iOS device, you have two main options. 1) use Apple’s built-in mapping app to go to somewhere other than intended, potentially risking your life and the lives of your passengers along the way, or 2) fire up the mobile version of Google Maps, which is good but not as great as the old app that vanished when Apple decided its users would be better off with sketchy, featureless maps and inaccurate directions.
Thankfully, while Apple’s map team is trying to push its Toyota Prius out of a field that should be a freeway, and Google is still putting the finishing touches to its shiny new Maps app, Nokia has arrived to save the day with HERE, a mapping and location service powered by NAVTEQ data (as used in the majority of in-car navigation systems).
The other day we talked about the plan to release a new Spybot - Search & Destroy app today. Well, version 2.0 is now officially available and packs a host of new features, most of which we already knew about thanks to beta versions and a company announcement.
Before you try to explain that you have Windows Defender, McAfee, Norton or whatever else, let me explain something. No security program is perfect. They all miss the occasional spyware, rootkit, or virus. Having more than one antivirus running on your computer is a very bad idea, but having a second program such as malware catching app is not.
AOKP is one of the most popular names in the Android modding community, gathering more than 180,000 installations in the past couple of months. The team released the latest build -- Jelly Bean Milestone 1 -- two weeks ago, so let's take a look and see what all the fuss is about. Straight off the bat I have to warn that you might see some pink unicorns around. Don't worry, they don't bite unless provoked.
Before we begin I have to mention that since I installed AOKP Jelly Bean Milestone 1 (catchy name, don't you think?) Android 4.2 popped up on the horizon, which I ran shortly after. In my review of the second Jelly Bean iteration I made a number of comparisons with popular custom Android distributions, only to realize that the stock version was the least inspiring upgrade that I performed in the past couple of months. Why? I simply missed my AOKP ROM, because in so many ways it's more suited for an enthusiast like myself.