Top Tech of 2012

This marks the 5th year that I’ve written this blog post.  When I began blogging in 2008, I was all over the marble with the topics that I covered.  Over time, this blog has become mostly about my family.  The BBQ stuff that littered the first couple of years worth of content is now all done over at http://www.grillandbarrel.com.  But I look forward to this blog post every year.  This post includes the technology products and services that I’ve had first hand experience with during the year.  This isn’t a comprehensive list of every item that I’ve acquired or used, just those that are noteworthy.

Here we go.  In no particular order, here are my top tech products and services from 2012:

  1. 341286iPad 3 – We’re an Apple family.  iMac, iPhones, iPods, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, AppleTV.  We’ve done our part in driving Apple stock through the roof.  While we have an original iPad in the house (Carie’s mother’s day gift from that year), I decided I wanted one of my own so that she could actually use her iPad.  I picked this up around Father’s Day and since it’s not a “shared” device, I’ve integrated it into my own workflow.  I use it at work and home.  In fact there are times that I’ll go several days without firing up my laptop.  It’s faster than the first generation, has a sexier screen, and front and back cameras.  My only complaint is that after only 6 months, Apple obsoleted this model with the iPad 4.
  2. iPad Mini – I made a deal with Mackenzie that she could have a tablet for her birthday (Madison got a Kindle Fire for her birthday).  Her birthday happened to fall near the Apple announcement of the iPad Mini.  The deal was that if she wanted to wait for the announcement, she could have the Mini when it was available.  But, if she actually wanted the gift on her birthday she would have to get a Kindle Fire.  She opted to wait.  I got burned for an extra $129.  I really didn’t think the Mini would be that much more than the Kindle Fire.  But that was the deal that I made.  The Mini is pretty cool device and I really like the form factor.  If I didn’t have the iPad 3, I’d look hard at a Mini for myself.  I like the increased mobility of that form factor.
  3. Kind Fire – As I mentioned, Madison wanted a Kindle for her birthday and we settled on the Fire.  It’s the first Android based device to make it into our house.  It’s a pretty cool device for what it is, a media consumption device.  It’s not great for creating content, but in fairness that’s not it’s target.  It’s all about being a window into the Amazon Store and it does that very well.  Sure, there’s a Facebook app, email etc.  But it shines at cracking open your wallet for content acquired via Amazon.  Madison reads on it constantly.  Oh, and I see by her FB timelines that she likes to update FB right before she goes to sleep.
  4. Airgo Speaker – This one I blogged about.  I’ve looked for a way to provide music by the pool without running speaker wire and mounting speakers.  I finally found the answer.  This device houses an Apple Airport Express, enabling the Apple Airplay feature to target the enclosed speaker for output.  Now, we can stream and control the music from any of our “i” devices (iphones or iPads).  Full blog post on this one is located here.

That’s it.  I couldn’t come up with anything else that was new or noteworthy.  I’m sure that there’ll be more tech in the new year.  I see a new desktop for the family, a new laptop or desktop for Carie, and maybe a new DSLR for yours truly.  That’s a pretty ambitious wish list, but come back next year around this time and see what maks the cut for the top tech of 2013.

Cheers,

Braddog

Poolside Tunes – AirGo Speaker Review

Ever since we put the pool in, I’ve toyed with how to provide music on the patio without dragging out a  portable stereo every time we wanted music, without running wires and permanently mounting speakers outside, and at the same time giving us the flexibility of accessing our iTunes library or internet music easily.

Well, I finally solved the problem.  I discovered an outdoor speaker solution that leverages an Apple Airport Express and supports Apple’s Airplay feature.  It’s from the folks at Russound and it’s called an AirGo.  It’s a weather resistant, portable speaker solution.  The sound quality is great and it is plenty loud for our backyard area.

The cool thing about this device is that it actually has a compartment on the back that a houses an Airport Express (sold separately)  The Airport Express is basically a wireless router.  In this implementation , it’s connects to my WiFi network for the purposes of connecting other devices.  It has speaker connections (it has USB and Ethernet connections also) that are connected to the AirGo.  But the magic is the AirPlay feature in iTunes.  Either from my Mac or my iPhone (iPad, iPod Touch, etc.) I can redirect the music output to any AirPlay supported device.  In this case, my AirGo.

Additionally, many of the music services that have apps for iOS support AirPlay as well.  That means that I can stream music from Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, etc. to the AirGo.

My family and I spent most of Saturday hanging out and taking turns q-ing up music from our iPhones.  It works so well and sounds so good, we’ll be getting a ton of use from this solution.

Here’s a short video on the product from it’s announcement at CES.

Cheers,
Braddog

Christmas Around the Apple Tree

I’m a day late, but here’s wishing my friends and family a Merry Christmas. We spent the day, like the last several Christmas days, lounging about the house and enjoying the gifts that we receive, eating, and generally not getting out of our PJ’s.

This year we had a treat. It began snowing on Christmas Eve morning and by Christmas Day, we were blanketed under 5-6″ of the powdery stuff. It’s a rare treat for us to have a white Christmas here in the mid-west, but this is the second time since we’ve lived in this house that we’ve had a significant snowfall overnight and I’ve had to shovel snow on Christmas day.

The highlight of the morning for the girls was the gift of Apple iPhones. Since receiving them, they’ve hardly put them down. In fact, as I write this they both have their noses buried in their new phones.

Here’s a couple of shots from the day. The rest of the Christmas 2010 photos can be seen at my Flickr page.

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I hope you had a blessed Christmas!

Cheers,
Braddog

Top 5 Tech for 2009

Once again, this year is marked by the acquisition or use of a number of technology items.  These are my own Top 5 that I’ve personally used or own.

#5 – Geocaching Application for the iPhone.  The kids and I enjoy the occasional geocaching excursion.  This usually means spending a little time charting a route, printing out maps & clues, and downloading GPS coordinates into my hand held Garmin GPS.  However, the folks at Groundspeak launched a geocaching  application for the iPhone that allows you the ability to go completely paperless.  It uses the GPS built into the phone to do instant searches for nearby caches, displays them on a Google map, and provides access to all of the hints, logs, and other info about each cache.  While it’s not cheap as far as iPhone apps go, at $10 it’s an awesome deal.

#4 – Mozy.  You all have a backup of the really important stuff on your PC, right?  I mean, with the proliferation of digital media (photos, MP3’s, etc.) a hard drive crash could be more disastrous that in the past.  There are a number of on-line backup solutions that have sprung up.  The one that I’m using is called Mozy.  At $50/yr. it’s a huge peace of mind to know that all of my family photos (I’ve been digital since 2000), music, personal documents, and so on are backed up in the event that my hard drive crashes.  Even better, it’s so automatic that I don’t even have to think about the backup.  Just set it and forget it.  Any time that new content is created or added to my computer, the files are automatically backed up to Mozy servers.  If you’re not backing up your data, sign up for Mozy NOW!

#3 – iMac.  Early this year, I purchased a refurbished iMac from Apple.  I got a an awesome deal and a really awesome computer at the same time.  Unlike any PC that I’ve owned over the years, the iMac is a sleek, sexy machine.  Enough so that I don’t mind it having a place of prominence in the kitchen/sunroom.  Having the iMac in proximity to where we spend most of our time, has driven up the families overall use of a computer and access to the online world.  All in all, a very good thing.

#2 – Eye-Fi.  I’ve had my eye on this technology for awhile, but after a couple of friends acquired one and raved about it I popped for one a short while ago.  This little SD memory card fits in your digital camera, but it also includes a wireless card to access your home network.  Software is installed on your computer (also on your home network), and every time you take a photo it is instantly transferred to your computer.  If you take photos away from home, they’re transferred to your computer the next time the camera is turned on while in range of your home network.  You can also configure an automatic transfer of photos to any one of a number of online services.  My Christmas photos were synching in real time to my Flickr account There are versions of the Eye-Fi that provide access to WiFi hotspots, geotag your photos, and support video as well as digital photos.  This has eliminated the  words “Honey/Dad, can you get the photos off of the camera” around my house.  At $50, it’s an awesome deal!

#1 – iPhone.  No surprise I guess, I love my iPhone.  While it certainly is a telephone, it’s really a portable personal computer.  I use it for email, access to the internet, games, photos, updating this blog (as well as Grillandbarrel.com) and much more.  With a huge library of applications and nearly as many websites supporting pages customized specifically for the iPhone, it’s become the primary tool in my technology arsenal.  It’s not cheap and the data service isn’t either, but I think it’s well worth it.

There you have it folks, my personal Top 5 Tech for 2009.  I wonder what 2010 will bring?  A 4G iPhone, an Apple tablet, a new big screen TV?  All are possible, and a couple of these are even likely.  But you’ll have to wait until this time next year for my 2010 top 5!

Cheers,

Braddog

Technology Cast Offs

If you’ve been keeping score, you know that I just acquired a new iPhone.  When I made the decision to go with the iPhone, I fully expected that it would simply be a replacement for my old WinMo phone.  But after just a few days, I’ve already stopped carrying my iPod Touch and have synchronized all my music, photos, etc. onto the iPhone.

I walked into my den on Sunday evening and noticed my tech cast offs lying on the chair in the corner.  I decided to snap a picture of these devices, two of which  really have been replaced; the Motorola Q & the iPod Touch.  The little pink camera isn’t going anywhere, but it just happened to be in the same pile.

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I’m pretty excited about the convergence of devices.  I wasn’t sure I’d be happy going to a single device for a voice, email, data, music, video, podcasts, apps, games, photos.  But so far, the iPhone delivers on all those things really well.

Cheers,
Braddog

iPhone First Impressions

Okay, okay, so I’m a little late to the game and I’m sure that I’m not about to say anything that hasn’t been said.  But I’m gonna say it anyway.  Here are my first impressions after only 48 hrs with my new iPhone.

Likes:

  • I have an iPod Touch, so there’s not a ton of differences.  However, it’s really cool being connected to the interwebs all the time.  I’ve added apps & music directly from iTunes since I have the connectivity.
  • Running the iPhone with the Bluetooth activated and paired with my handsfree system in my car is nothing different than I was doing with my WinMO phone.  However, the way it automatically stops the Podcast or Playlist from playing when I take the call and then restarts when I hang up is very cool.  I was juggling two devices before.
  • Location Services (GPS).  This brings a lot of new possibilities that I didn’t have with the iTouch due to limited connectivity.

Dislikes:

  • BATTERY LIFE! Wow, this thing sure goes through the battery quickly.  Of course, it’s powering the cellular radio, WiFi radio, Bluetooth, doing real time push email etc. all at the same time if you let it.   I’ve turned a few services down to improve this, but I’m still not sure I’ll ever be able to get through the day on a single charge.
  • I discovered a weird situation where if you’re using it as an iPod with a line out cable plugged into an external stereo (like I do in my car) and the phone rings, the call is routed to the line out and plays over the car stereo but the mic doesn’t work on the phone.  So I’ll either have to keep Bluetooth enabled or unplug the line out cable when I receive a call.
  • I can’t delete a single instance of a recurring meeting from the calendar, I can’t schedule a meeting on the calendar and invite other attendees, and I can’t forward an appointment to someone else.  The calendar seems to be the weakest app of the bunch as far as I can tell.

Of course I’ve only had the thing for a couple of days, but these are my initial reactions.  I’ll keep you posted on my impressions as I continue to live with this new device.

Cheers,
Braddog

iPhone accessory? Or, the cart before the horse?

braketron Nearly a year ago I acquired my first iPod, an iPod Touch.  I’ve enjoyed the world of podcasts, videos, internet acess etc. on this little device.  In fact, it was the catalyst for my switch from PC to Mac.

But with my eyes getting worse and the constant traffic, using it during my commute has become challenging.  So I finally popped for a vent mount for the little guy from Braketron.

This mount was very cheap and does a great job of securing the device so that it’s not a projectile when I have to get on the brakes really hard.  It also has two other benefits.  First, without my glasses it’s exactly the right distance away for me to able to focus on it.  And second, it’ll be a nice accessory for an iPhone (eventually). 🙂

Cheers,
Braddog