Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Ever hit "Send Mail" a little too soon?  Notice a typo just a few seconds after you click send?  Or forget to attach a file to an email you just sent?

Today's Tech Gospel is about one of the many features in Gmail Labs.  It's a feature called Undo Send.  It gives you a few seconds to undo sending an email.

When enabled, you can still stop an email from being sent a few seconds after you click SEND.

Very easy to use, eliminates the hassle of resending the same email in case you forgot to include something, or decide to not send the email at all.

There are a whole lot of other features available in Labs, and I encourage you to try them out to see which ones you find useful.

Some are still in the experimental stage so they may cause a few glitches, if that happens, Gmail has a "Disable Labs" emergency feature for cases where Labs features cause problems.  So no need to worry.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When A Note Isn't Enough...

Who doesn't love USB thumb drives?!?!?  Even though I have so much more in cloud storage, I still have a use for a tiny USB drive to save or transfer impromptu files.

But they have been pretty boring ... quite utilitarian in design...if any design at all!

Two of my favs are from LaCie and Verbatim

The one by LaCie looks like a key and fits nicely on your keychain.  Great idea when you don't wanna look like you have a USB thumb drive.

The one by Verbatim Store n Go "Clip-It" was just announced, and weighs virtually nothing and doubles as a cute paper-clip.

Better Late Than Never.... NOT!

Been sitting on 1.6 for almost 2 months now... not happy about their delay in deploying 2.1. There's just no excuse for that at all.

This better be some we-found-this-tech-in-the-ship-in-Roswell announcement! Although I'd settle for a blanket 2.2 surprise upgrade instead of 2.1...but I highly doubt that will happen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

iPad video... FINALLY!

One of the weaknesses of iOS has been it's horrible video support. Having to pass through iTunes, or some 3rd party converter, it hasn't really been that great a video player.  (Cough... cough... Quicktime... cough... cough... sucks... cough... cough...)

Then along comes VLC... yep... it's official. One of the great video players in the FREE market is now available on the iPad!

So far it can play almost anything it's desktop counterpart can... with one caveat, the iPad itself isn't fast enough to playback Bluray/HD files.  So MKVs are out... (It will open it, but files are extremely choppy) but so far, most avis will play with no conversion needed.

This is great news since this has finally made iOS a viable and PRACTICAL portable video player.  Now rivaling Archos.

Image quality is decent.  Color banding is quite apparent specially in under and over exposed shots.  I don't know if this is a player limitation, or the iPad's hardware limitation.  But it's not a deal breaker for me since I'd rather have the convenience of easy video transfer.

Scrubbing and resume are supported.  I don't know if the closed caption feature works though, I haven't played with it enough to figure that one out.

Will be running a battery of tests on it to see what it can or cannot play... if you have questions on video formats that you want me to test out as well, let me know!

**Long overdue update on this post... VLC is no longer available on iTunes, because of VLC's violation of their own licensing rights.**

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Look! Up in the clouds!!!

Today's Tech Gospel is about cloud computing and how it can affect everyday users.  So what exactly is "Could Computing"?

Have you ever forgotten a file at home or at work?  Searched for an email at work then remembered it was in your home computer?  Brought a file to a presentation only to find out that it isn't the revised version?  Or had countless 'final version' drafts of a single document emailed back and forth for revisions all saved on your computer?

To understand cloud computing, and take full advantage of it, I have to give a brief explanation on how computing has been done so far.

Currently, most people are running on what is known as client, or client-server type computing.

Client based computing is where each computer functions independently.  Your computer is only as capable as the software and hardware installed.  You wanted to have an encyclopedia, then you had to have the appropriate software installed on a computer that could handle the program.  Email was downloaded and stored physically on your machine.  Files are saved and stored on your hard drive.

Client-server computing was born in the business environment.  This allowed a central computer (the server), to hold master copies of all documents, files, and programs.  Then each employees computer (the client) would access the files from the server.  This was (and still is) the prevalent setup.  This allowed a much more powerful computer to handle larger tasks, files and requests.  It allowed corporate email to be stored in a more secure environment than an employees personal or issued computer.  And it offset costs to a single main server, instead of the many client machines.

Cloud computing is a complete shift.  Transferring most of the data and computing requirements over to the internet.  The earliest form of cloud computing is web-based email (like Yahoo).  Essentially a large client-server setup, but having no single computer, it has been dubbed the cloud.

Because of this, mobile devices now have more capabilities than ever before simply because they don't need to do the heavy work.  Not just simple email storage and retrieval.  But actual functionality.

Wikipedia is a good example of cloud computing, where information is created by, well, everyone.  Information is not saved on each individual computer but instead, just accessed and displayed by end users.  The main entries are all stored, edited and archived online.

Google Maps is another form of cloud computing, where all the maps and details are not stored on your device.  This allows the maps to be updated each time you visit the site.  No need to store large maps or install updated locations.  The cloud is always being updated.

Another is Google's Voice Search feature.  (More on this in a future post) Almost no mobile device has the computing or storage capacity to do on-the-fly voice recognition... what your Android or iPhones do is pass your recorded voice command to the cloud, where a battery of servers decipher your speech and transcribe it to text, which is then passed on to Google's Search engine.

Google Voice Search on Android also plugs into other Android apps as well, allowing voice command and voice to text capabilities without the need to "train" your device.

Other examples are Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and Yahoo Messenger.

The greatest advantage of cloud computing is the lack of dependence on a single physical machine.  I no longer have to bring my laptop around to access my old emails.  Work documents, presentations and schedules can be updated remotely and no longer have to be sent via email.

All you have to do is log into your account, and the information that you had at home or work, is available to you almost anywhere... on almost any machine.  Cloud storage such as Dropbox almost eliminates the need for a USB thumb drive.  While Wuala allows sharing of large files without the need for the recipient to download a program or sign up to the service.

With the internet, we are no longer tied to a single location.

With cloud computing, we are no longer tied to a single machine.

Monday, September 13, 2010

We are Android, your playlists will be assimilated... resistance is futile...

Today's Tech Gospel is about a small program/app called TuneSync from Highwind Software.  What it does is allow your Android to sync with your iTunes playlists!  How cool is that?  Although I was never fond of iTunes, I do like iPods, and iPods only sync with iTunes, so I had to learn to like iTunes.

Unfortunately, iTunes doesn't really like playing with other devices.

The TuneSync server installs on your Windows or Mac computer, and the small app that installs on your Android device.  It acts as a conduit between iTunes and your Android device.

It couldn't be any simpler.  The free version can only sync 20 songs per playlist, it's fine if you're not the type to bring GBs of music ... the paid version, imo, is worth it if you do.

Once the program and app are installed, syncing is done from your phone... WIRELESSLY!!!!  A menu with all your playlists is available, and all you have to do is check the playlists you want synced with your handset.  Everything is done automatically over wifi!

I think that TuneSync is a great app, and should be one of those must-have apps on any Android device.

Happy listening!!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

iTunes is smart, but it's no genius

Time for a hymn?  Today's Tech Gospel is about a feature in iTunes that not many people take full advantage of.  The Smart Playlist.  I don't know about most of you, but I think the "Genius" feature in iTunes feels more like a retarded monkey clicking away at my playlist with bizarre song choices.  It works most of the time, but every now and then, it feels like the DJ fell asleep at the booth.

I prefer having a little more control over my playlists, but I'm personally too lazy to always change songs.  I do like hearing songs I haven't played in a while, but I also have a set of favorites that I always like listening to.  So what's the balance between manually selecting songs, your favorite few, random (aka genius), and adding new songs?

Smart Playlists

This isn't a new feature of iTunes, but one that is often overlooked.  It's much simpler to just drag a song into a new playlist or create a new one with songs you already like.  That's fine if you only have a few songs.  Once your library passes 500, it kinda gets messy.

A Smart Playlist is a playlist that can sort songs given certain rules that you define.  For example, I have master playlists of each genre that I like, Alternative, Rock, Metal, etc.  But Christmas songs that also fall under these genres are NOT included in these master lists since I want those under just one Christmas folder.

Songs can be cross posted under different SPs as well, like if a song is classified as both classical and instrumental, it can be sorted into two SPs.  A classical and an instrumental one.  The Instrumental SP may contain other genres as well, not just classical music.

You can also create a SP that sorts all songs recently played, or most often played.

for each genre
or artist.

Most often played
or least often played.

Latest added (this is a default Smart Playlist in iTunes)

Or almost anything else that you prefer.

And even if the older iPod Shuffles can't handle playlists, that doesn't mean they can't benefit from Smart Playlists.  I have a Smart Playlist just for my 2nd gen Shuffle.  It automatically loads 1GB worth of songs, distributed in 100MB per genre.

It takes a while to define the rules.  You can have more than one, and sub-rules for every main rule.  For example you can tell a Smart Playlist to include all songs by John Mayer that you recently played, but not from his Room For Squares album.  Then limit it to the last 100 songs that fit that description.

The advantage of Smart Playlists vs regular ones is that with the right set of rules, you don't have to keep making new playlists.  They constantly change, update, rearrange, add and remove based on what you tell it are your listening habits.  Not a 'best guess' effort.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Cloud Calendar... the modern way of organizing your day.

The Tech Gospel for today is about online calendar services.  I  had previously posted an entry regarding CalDav emphasizing the advantages of keeping your devices synchronized using the new open calendar standard.

This time, I'm going to emphasize the advantages of sharing your calendar with others.  If you're like me, you're the type of person who likes keeping your personal schedule out of your office/work calendar... but this introduces the issue of having to check different calendars for overlap and schedule conflicts.  Enter calendar sharing.

Most online calendar services allow the creation of multiple calendars within your account.

Online sharing allows me to have a different calendar for different activities or projects.  Sharing each calendar with the appropriate people to either view or edit depending on the permissions I set.  What I do, is share my work calendar with my personal account via CalDav.  This would allow me to see and edit my work sked from my personal calendar.  I can then create a calendar in my personal account labeled [Vacation] then share that particular calendar with my work calendar.  This allows anyone who adds me to a meeting to automatically see that I'm not available at a particular date or time.

This is highly beneficial in almost any type of scenario, from managing meeting schedules for work, dinner with friends, or just keeping a schedule of personal tasks.

The advantage of sharing calendars is that I don't have to check a separate calendar for work, home, friends, etc...  Even if they are created on other domains or by other people.  All events from different sources can be pooled into my online service, then synced with all my devices, automatically...wirelessly

**Since shared calendars can be edited by the person(s) you share it with, all your appointments can be made, scheduled, and rescheduled by your assistant, or other parties involved in an event, or project.  This allows everyone involved in an event to have access to the updated schedules all the time since alerts can be made to inform everyone of any changes made.**

Tech Trivia - Quotable Quotes

It's easy to make mistakes with future predictions, specially if you're not an expert in the field. One of the more famous quotes would be:

"It's a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?"
Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President, after a demonstration of Alexander Bell's telephone, 1876

But it does get funnier when you are the expert in the field...

Some of my favorite quotes:

"The phonograph has no commercial value at all." Thomas Edison, 1880

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" H. M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1927

"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." Albert Einstein, 1932

“I’m not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen,” Steve Jobs, 2003

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ReKindling a flame

When I first heard about e-ink, I thought it was an amazing piece of tech.  The idea of electronic paper is a remarkable concept, let alone seeing it as a finished commercial product in Amazon's Kindle.

This is NOT an LCD screen.  Technically, it's not a screen of any kind.  It's ink.  Electronic ink that changes color from black to white (or light gray) depending on the electrical charge applied to it.

How this differs from regular screen tech, is that e-ink only uses power to change the display.  Once the image or text is displayed, the display no longer needs power to hold the image.  Unlike traditional LCD tech, where power is required all the time, e-ink is a thousand times more power efficient.  This is also why the new Kindle can offer 1 month of battery life on a single charge, as opposed to the iPad's 10 hour charge.

How different do the screens really look?  Well Keith Peters, who runs the blog bit-101 placed both under a microscope (literally) and came up with some interesting results.  The original blog entry of Keith Peters and source of the magnified screen photos is here.

This is the iPad's screen magnified

(The red, green and blue lights you see are how a traditional LCD screen displays the color white)

This is the Kindle's screen magnified

This is how newspaper print looks magified

This is standard book printing magnified

Of course, no tech is perfect.  E-Ink can only display black and white images and text, and isn't made for quick refresh time so video (even B&W video) is out of the question.  But what E-Ink can do is display text and images without power.  Once an image has been "printed" it remains on the display indefinitely... until a new charge is applied to change the image displayed.  E-Ink displays are also more durable and readable in bright sunlight.
This tech is not just limited to e-book readers.  Any B&W LCD display can now be replaced with a more durable, lower power, thinner, eco-friendlier display.

Lexar is a company that did just that by incorporating e-ink into their memory key as a capacity gauge.  The gauge doesn't require power when unplugged, and only refreshes when the key is plugged into a USB port.

Thanks again to Keith Peters for granting permission  to use his images and reference his blog!

New home...

Decided to get a domain for my blog.  This link should still work and redirect to my new address at www.techgospelaccordingtojohn.com

Please update your links and bookmarks.

Existing feeds, tweets and email subscriptions should still work seamlessly and needs no further updating.

Let me know if any of you encounter any issues with any of the feeds...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hoy! Attention! Let op! Huomio! Achtung! Figyelem! Uzmanību! Atención! Uppmärksamhet! Gmail's New Priority Inbox

The Tech Gospel for today is on
Gmail's new Priority Inbox and how it can help you out in your everyday e-life.

What exactly is it?  Well, it's the opposite of a SPAM folder.  As good as spam filters have gotten over the past few years, manually flagging important emails is still quite a chore.  With all the new networking services, offline alerts are still delivered via email... like when a new friend request is received, or private message.

With the rise of large (above 5GB) email boxes, this has led to email hoarding.  I literally have over 10,000 emails in my personal account.  This is not including my work, or business accounts.  And yes, that's all spam free email.

The term for email that is not spam, but is not important, is BACN (yes, as in bacon... can you tell what programmers are exposed to at their workplace?  Spam, bacn, donut, eclair, froyo, cupcake...)

Gmail's new Priority Inbox creates a new section.  Not a new folder.  It's like a spam filter in reverse.  It tries to learn what YOU consider important by the frequency of received emails from a particular sender, whether they are read or not, and other variables.  You can also manually flag emails as important and this helps Gmail learn which emails are important as well.

Right now, it's still very raw.  So most of the input will come from the user.  But it learns quite fast so the more you help it identify which are priority emails, the sooner it can do it without your help.

All the emails still go to your inbox, what it does is just put the important ones on top for you to read first.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Finally! FaceTime for Android!!!!

Today's Tech Gospel: Apple announced an entire new line-up of iPods today.  Among them was the highly anticipated upgrade of the iPod Touch.  As Jobs put it "It's the iPhone without a contract"... which is what everyone wants.  HAHAHAHA!  Was this Apple's way of circumventing their deal with AT&T? Hmmm...

Has Apple unintentionally given something to Android users that iPhone 4 users don't have yet (and possibly never will)? ... FaceTime... anywhere.  All Androids running FroYo, or Barnacle Wifi should have FaceTime capabilities while on the move with the new iPod Touch.

Will keep posting details on this possibility as soon as real-world testing can be done...

**Click here for the follow up post on using FaceTime on the iPod Touch while tethered**

The Forbidden Fruits...

The Tech Gospel is about Apple's new products... Finally, the shuffle is back. The last one was really dumb. The new Nano is amazing. And of course, the iPod Touch... 'the iphone w/o a contract'... FACETIME w/o the antenna issues.
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Speak up!

Today's Tech Gospel is about TTS (Text-To-Speech) apps for Android.  Specifically, my favorite one.  SayMyName Dessert.

One of the capabilities of Android that I never thought I'd find a use for was their voice capabilities.  I've had this on my computers since the early 90's when Creative had it in their first SoundBlaster.  It's cute at best, annoying most of the time.  Mac has had these too, and I have absolute hatred for it since whenever I heard the "Excuse me.." it usually means a program hung.

When I tried it on Android, it was something that was a "show-off" app.  But I found an app that suddenly made it indispensible!  Say My Name Dessert is a TTS app that speaks whenever a call, SMS, or Email comes in.

How can this be any more useful than just a regular alert tone or mp3?  Well, it's most useful in the car.  For calls, it tells me who's calling so I know if it's for work, or not.  Not much of a big deal there.  The real help is with incoming SMS.  Not only does it tell me who the message is from, it reads the entire contents of the message.  Why would I want to hear the whole message?  Well, if you're driving, you can identify important from unimportant messages.  If you had texted someone for directions, a return SMS would be read to you.  Or if spam text (we get a lot of those here in the Philippines) comes in, I know I don't have to check my phone and reply anytime soon.  This feature alone has proven invaluable.  The last feature on SayMyName is the ability to read the sender and subject line of incoming emails (AFAIK, this only works with K-9 Email).  Not as critical (for me anyway) as it's SMS capabilities, but it keeps me from glancing at my phone often.

SayMyName is not the only TTS app for Android however, there are a lot of them out there, but it's the only one I found that integrated calls, sms, and emails.  If all you need is one, there are other apps that will be just as good.

I think voice capabilities of Android have started to reach a practical level already.  This simple feature has helped increase my battery life as well, since I no longer keep glancing and checking my phone for possible emails, or sms that I may have missed.

TTS on Android also supports accents, this means that even though the app language is in English, the voice will read it with either a British, American, French, German, Italian, or Spanish accent... picking a language other than the language being texted makes for an extremely hilarious (and unintelligible) voice alert!  Hehehehe!!!

Past Tech Gospels

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