Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's Not Too Late...

...To grab a copy of C! Magazine's October issue!!!  I was given the great opportunity to be a guest writer.  This is my first printed article, and I had a lot of fun writing it.  Thank you again to C! Magazine for allowing me to be a contributor!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tech Trivia: Transparent Aluminum? That's So Yesterday!

Today's Tech Gospel is about Graphene.  Made up of carbon... you know... that thing that makes up all known living things... diamonds... and your #2 pencil?

I don't know how many geeks actually read my blog, but to the few that do... I'm sure you all know the famous scene in the 1986 movie, Star Trek IV, that shows Scotty 'inventing' the formula for "Transparent Aluminum".  A fictional future material that is supposedly as transparent as glass, but as strong as aluminum.

Fast forward to 2008 when the US Military was experimenting with ALON, a transparent aluminum ceramic that is used as military armor and can withstand 50 cal anti-tank rounds.  Due to cost restrictions (I think it costs about $20,000/m²), the military has decided against this amazing armor plating.  ALON exhibits very similar properties to the fictional "futuristic" material in the Star Trek movie.

Fast forward a little more to 2010, when Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov win the Nobel Prize in Physics for Graphene.  (It was actually discovered in 2004, but the recent breakthrough was in its fabrication process.)

This wonder material is hundreds of times stronger than steel... 97% transparent... exhibits better electrical and heat conductive properties than copper... is flexible... and is virtually indestructible (although this is a slight exaggeration, it has a Velcro-like property that allows it to pseudo-heal itself on a molecular level so quickly that it appears to not be damaged at all) ... and unlike the former ALON, Graphene is cheap to produce.  And this is not a It-will-be-cheap-sometime-in-the-future... it's actually cheap to produce NOW.

It's applications include everything from military armor, low-cost/high capacity batteries, computers, solar cells, flexible touchscreens, high-strength windows, and recyclable lighting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just Looking...

Have you ever wished shopping on Amazon was easier?  Have you ever visited Amazon and thought, "Oh, there absolutely nothing I want to buy from here.".  For those of you that think "Oh, Amazon isn't doing a good enough job of showing me stuff I want to buy."* ... well, your prayers have been answered.  Just when you thought that new iPad would tie your shopping urges over...


Because wasn't tempting enough.

*Sarcasm intended

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Goodbye iChat... Hello FaceTime!

Today's Tech Gospel is about the FaceTime for Mac Beta.  Finally.  I think everyone found it odd that the iPhone 4's FaceTime app couldn't make video calls to Apple's iChat Video system.

Thankfully Apple reacted quickly and has released a crude FaceTime Beta for Mac.

Now, understand that this is still in Beta, so a lot of features are still a bit buggy, and there is a known security flaw.  Not a big deal unless you frequently allow other people to use your computer.

This, however, is a Snow Leopard only program.  If you haven't upgraded yet, now would be a good time to do so.

For those with Mac Minis, or a Mac Pros, you can use Apple's LCD monitors w/ the built-in camera, iSight camera, or any Firewire video camera lying around.  If you want to buy a webcam, make sure it's the newer UVC compliant webcams.  But I prefer using a proper Firewire video camera w/ a boom mic to eliminate room echo and much better audio quality.

My FaceTime rig is my old Canon DV cam w/ a Rode shotgun mic connected to my Mac Mini.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do Not Disturb

Today's Tech Gospel is about call and SMS filtering.  I don't know how it is in other countries, but here in the Philippines, we get a ton of ANNOYING telemarketing calls and SMS on our mobiles.  Mostly from real estate agencies, quick loan companies, and credit card companies.

One Android app I've found very handy is EasyFilter.  Although there are  a whole lot more out there, I've come to prefer EasyFilter's particular set of features.  **iOS users can use iBlacklist, although this is only for jailbroken iPhones.  Symbian UIQ users have a basic filter built-in already.**

EasyFilter is very simple to use, you can create a blacklist using existing call or message logs and just select the calls you want blocked.  It can also work in reverse as a whitelist, allowing only the numbers you select to be allowed through.

**Just a note, for those running a Task Manager/Killer, make sure to add EasyFilter to the exception list**

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


A while back, I posted an entry on the possibility of FaceTime for Android in the form of Apple's new iPod Touch.  Finally got to test and confirm it using Barnacle Wifi Tether and an iPhone 4.  Signal is fairly stable although it's more dependent on your provider's 3G/EDGE network... GPRS is too slow to give decent performance and will most likely drop the call all together.

Barnacle's only shortcoming is the inconsistency of it's connection to the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Hopefully those running 2.1 Androids don't experience dropped signal when the screen saver kicks in.  So far, those on the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini/Mini Pro will need to run something in the background to keep Barnacle from switching to standby.  Some users have reported firmware updates fix this, but not all regions have the same firmware.  In this case, the screen saver/power saver is usually the culprit since it disables the wifi antenna to conserve power.

To make a FaceTime call, go to your contact list, tap on a contact and scroll all the way down and click on the FaceTime button on the bottom left.

A menu will pop up to show the possible ways to connect to the contact via FaceTime.  A caveat, just because FaceTime will attempt to connect, doesn't mean that contact has FaceTime.  You have to know which phone number or email that particular contact is using for FaceTime, and that contact has to already be online when the call is being made.

The iPod Touch has effectively given FaceTime to Android.  Although those with a 2nd jailbroken iPhone and tethering should also be able to use FaceTime on their iPhone 4 while on the move.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mobi Wars (android vs. iOS vs. RIM)

Today's Tech Gospel is on the on-going Mobi Wars.  I've been getting a lot of inquiries on which is the "best" phone to get... unfortunately, the answer is, like always, 'it depends'.

This is just my personal take on the mobile wars.  For the sake of simplicity, I'm just going to focus on the 3 most popular ones... iOS, Android, and RIM. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I wouldn't be able to recommend ONE of them for everyone. Simply because not everyone has the same needs.  I'm not including Symbian since they dropped UIQ.  Their Series 40/60 feels more like a feature-phone than a PDA-OS.  UIQ was my favorite (honestly, more than Android), and I used it exclusively for the last 7 years and I really liked it.  S^3 is still to new, and I have no personal experience with it yet.

The oldest of the 3 is RIM. The Blackberry has been around for a while. It has (had?) a great idea. A global messaging system... kinda like AIM/YM for phones. And the ever famous push e-mail. The problem with RIM was that they stuck to a proprietary system... locked to proprietary hardware (which isn't that great to begin with) the strengths of this system, however, shine in an enterprise setting. Where business people can communicate globally via the BBM service. It's great at what it was designed to do..keep business people connected... anytime...anywhere. Now, whether or not this is a good thing for your boss to be able to find you anywhere in the world, at anytime... that's entirely up to you to decide.

Next up... the loudest of the bunch... iOS (the iPhone) ... with people lining up at 3am in the rain to get one... Apple has done what it does best... SELL. Now, a lot of my friends are surprised that I never kept an iPhone. Tried the 1st and 3G one... was never impressed. I'm not against it. I just think it falls short as a phone and SMS device. Hence, I've owned and used an iPod Touch as my primary PDA since it first came out.   I love iOS.   The refinement of the execution is just ... well.. Apple. Simple, easy, sleek. Tons of apps for almost anything you need. "There's an app for that!".  And although the iPhone falls short as a phone. It is improving. A lot of basic functions (multi-tasking, MMS, cut and paste, and Bluetooth) were just recently introduced... so it is evolving.

I would recommend an iPhone for anyone has outgrown the functionality out of a regular phone, but doesn't really want to take the time to tweak and fiddle with the OS.

Enter the new kid in town... Android. Google's FREE mobile OS. Now how does this benefit the consumer? You can have branded (HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson) Android devices for about $200, SIM-free! No 2-year contract, no BS... with pretty much the same features as their larger, more expensive siblings. (I say pretty much because you still do get what you pay for in terms of hardware... even if Google is giving the software away)

Android... picked up where Symbian's UIQ dropped the ball. Because it syncs with Google's online services, it pretty much is compatible with any computer that can view Gmail. That is also Android weakness. Although cloud computing is the near-future, it's not quite here yet... so if you don't have an unlimited data plan, or don't intend to get one... I really wouldn't see the point of getting an Android device. It's still a great phone... but you feel like you're running the thing in 2nd gear if your not online 24/7.

Widgets also increase the over-all functionality of Android devices.  Something iOS doesn't have yet.  Not having to launch your calendar app just to see your appointments for the day is incredibly useful.  As is being able to have your phone automatically switch modes depending on the time of day, or day of the week.  Wireless iTunes syncing is also a nice feature to have...something iOS (oddly) doesn't have yet.

Even with no official app for something, a lot of Android apps can be strung together to do more complex tasks than they were designed to do.

Being the youngest of the 3, Android is still not as refined as iOS or BB.  Not quite ready for prime time, Android is still the weapon of choice for early adopters.

To sum it all up:
Blackberry: Great for corporate communications, specially the global BBM service.  Without BBM, it's kinda useless.  Best way to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family around the world.  Apps are limited.  Easiest to deploy and secure in a corporate fleet setting.

iPhone: Fun, sleek.  There's an app for almost anything you wanna do on it.  (Except download dive computer data straight from your dive computer... if someone from Suunto or Mac Dive Log is reading this... please make a dock that interfaces directly with an iPad or iPhone!)  Great games.  Mature and stable OS and Apps.  The inability to hide all icons from the desktop is still something that personally bugs me about iOS (iPhone, Touch or iPad)  Apps controlled by Apple, this minimizes security and virus risks, but also limits apps to developers that Apple wants.  Apple operates on a white-list system.  Only apps Apple wants get approved.

Android: Fully customizable.  True multi-tasking.  Tweakable.  Widgets.  Higher learning curve, but more advanced communication capabilities are possible.  Next best thing to having a phone OS built just for you (this is already custom Linux territory, people at this level do not bother reading my blog to get help on which phone to buy... hahahaha)  Google operates on a black-list system.  All apps are welcome until reported malicious or illegal by end-users.

**Personal note, ELSE looks like the most promising mobile OS... if backed properly, this is a new company that has the potential to overtake all 3 if they play things right... **

PS: I'm not mentioning Windows Mobile because that would just be sad (sorry MS, but you know it's true) ... hahahaha... let's see if they can raise the dead with Windows Phone...

This is far from over... with iOS 4, Android 2.2, and BB6 just coming out... this is only the beginning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Point and shoot... in HD (ZS3 continuing review)

Today's Tech Gospel is about point and shoot cameras.  A while back, I posted a review when I got my Panasonic ZS3.  I'm still quite happy with it, and it's pretty much the equivalent of the Leica V-Lux 20 and the newer Panasonic ZS7 (12.1 MP + GPS vs 10MP)

I had initially posted a few sample shots of what can be done with the simple scene presets and the Intelligent Auto function.

Now I'll post a few sample HD videos I took, one was at a recent John Mayer concert here in Manila, and the other when I recently purchased the DMW-MCTZ7case to go with it.

I'm generally a Canon fan with my primary being a Canon DSLR and all Canon lenses, and my first UW cam being the Canon A80...  but I have to say, the Panasonic ZS line has really impressed me spcially with its 25-300mm focal range, it's more practical to have out of the box.  Along with it's low $300 price tag (for the newer ZS7) it's really a great bargain for everything it can do.

If I'd have any complaint against the ZS3 (or ZS7) it would be the general flimsy feeling of the scene selection wheel, and zoom rocker... this follows for Panasonic's UW case as well, the buttons and rocker arms feel flimsier than Canon's over-all build quality.  But the wide focal range more than makes up for that short coming.

John Mayer, Live in Manila 2010

UW test video, Anilao Philippines

Past Tech Gospels

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