About a year ago, we decided to “cut the cord” and get rid of cable. We’ve been extremely happy with our setup and multiple friends have asked which products and services we’re using. As an answer to all the questions, here is a write up explaining our setup.
Category: Personal Computing
At the end of November, I bought my wife an ASUS Transformer T100 and she loves it. I’ve also used it occasionally (okay so I actually meant A LOT) and I wanted to write up a quick review.
The touch screen is responsive and the machine hasn’t shown any performance issues in web browsing, Microsoft Office, or video consumption. The battery has lasted for at least 8 hours consistently. Also, having a full version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint included with the machine is a godsend.
The touchpad on the keyboard dock could be made a bit better. The touchpad buttons are a bit hard to click but if you only left-click on the touchpad you’ll never notice. My wife hasn’t noticed but I’ve noticed because of how much I right-click (ex., right click open in new browser tab). I’ve learned to just use the touchscreen for these types of operations on the T100.
The one real downside of this machine is charging it. Charging over USB takes forever and can be hindered by the keyboard dock. To get a good charge, you have to undock from the keyboard and leave it charging overnight. We can deal with charging overnight but I wish ASUS would have used a technology that charges much faster. If you kill the battery early in the day, you’ll be waiting a few hours to be able to use the T100 without it being plugged in.
This machine does exactly what we wanted it to do. It’s an excellent 2 in 1 convertible and it is definitely worth the price. I would recommend it for anyone that isn’t a power user or has another primary computer.
Power users will want something that can run more power hungry programs without having to remote. I have used the T100 with remote desktop for programs like Photoshop, Visual Studio, and Adobe Premiere Elements but latency was a bit too much to make it a realistic work scenario.
Update July 26, 2014
I finally decided to buy a new charger for the tablet and it has made a world of difference. We no longer have any issues with charging!
I’ve had the Nokia Lumia 920 for a few months now and I think I can give a pretty good review. The phone was quite large to me at first but I did have an HTC Aria before this so anything was going to be huge to me. The phone is a bit heavy but the build quality is excellent. The screen looks great in a variety of lighting conditions. I’ve yet to use the “you can use gloves” feature since we never get glove weather but my wife loves that she can use her fingernails.
Side Note: The OtterBox case must be the best built OtterBox case I’ve ever seen. Even my carrier’s sales rep was amazed at how snug the phone sat in the case and how well it was made. I’m extremely glad I bought it considering I’ve dropped my phone multiple times now…
Wireless charging is also an interesting addition to the phone. The phone’s battery can easily go at least all day without a charge if you’re not using it much. With wireless charging, it really doesn’t matter how much you use it though. I usually just keep my phone on my desk anyway. Now I just make sure to drop it on the charging plate. As a bonus, the phone will never have the charging port/cable go bad which seems to be a common problem amongst my friends and family.
I was a bit worried about the camera with some people saying it doesn’t live up to the hype. They were wrong. The camera produces beautiful pictures. I will agree with some reviewers in that the built in software is a bit limited but a quick search on the marketplace for additional Lenses will fix that quickly.
Not much to say about the operating system. Windows Phone is easy to use and intuitive. There are some great ease of use features like the ability to text a reply directly in the incoming call screen. There are two features suprisingly missing from the OS though: an incoming call blacklist and automatic silent/vibrate when appointment is marked busy. Add these 2 features Microsoft and you’ve got a perfect OS.
The browser (IE10) has worked amazing although I do wish they’d implement the full version’s InPrivate mode into the phone version. I keep my gaming accounts separate and InPrivate is an easy way to move between accounts.
Play and iTunes boast about the number of applications that they have but let’s be realistic. How many of those applications are actually be used by consumers. I have not had trouble finding applications for Windows Phone.
With that said, I don’t game much on my phone besides Sudoku and Word Search type applications and I never used Instagram which is the big one I hear people complain about. If I want to share photos with people, I put them on Facebook. And I’m blaming Google for YouTube. There are some great 3rd party YouTube applications (PrimeTube, MetroTube, etc) but Google keeps breaking them. I use Vimeo for my personal and work-related videos anyway since they have a group feature.
I would definitely recommend the Lumia 920 to anyone in the market for a easy to use phone.
I have a quick tip that will exponentially increase your laptop, tablet, or even phone security. When you’re setting up your wireless connections, there are 2 options that you should never turn on: 1) “connect automatically when this network is in range” or “start this connection automatically” and 2) “connect even if the network is not broadcasting”.
You can blame hidden wireless networks for this gaping security hole. The How-To Geek has a really good article explaining why you shouldn’t use hidden wireless networks.
Why should I turn off these convenience features?
When you use the auto connect features of WiFi, your device will seek out the wireless connection. In the process of seeking out the connection, it also broadcasts the connection information. Devices such as WiFi Pineapples can be built to scan for the broadcasts coming from your devices. Once it has found a device, it automatically configures a matching connection and allows you to connect. Once you’re connected, your internet traffic can be monitored.
The following comes directly from the product information of Hak5’s WiFi Pineapple:
You see most laptops have network software that automatically connects to access points they remember. This convenient feature is what gets you online without effort when you turn on your computer at home, the office, coffee shops or airports you frequent.
Simply put, when your computer turns on the wireless radio send out out beacons. These beacons say “Is such-and-such wireless network around?” Jasager, German for “The Yes Man”, replies to these beacons and says “Sure, I’m such-and-such wireless access point – let’s get you online!”
Of course all of the Internet traffic flowing through the pineapple such as e-mail, instant messages and browser sessions are easily viewed or even modified by the pineapple holder.
I’ve been using Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 from the Windows Live Essentials 2011 pack for all of the video editing that I’ve been doing. Unfortunately, I’ve always felt it was lacking. The only output format in 2011 is WMV which doesn’t work that well on my Android phone and tablet. It also doesn’t have the greatest audio options. For example, there is no way to add in voice-overs or control the volumes of background music versus in video audio.
I was beginning to look into other video editing software until PCMag.com released an article called Windows 8 Brings Video Stabilization to Movie Maker. This article is horribly titled and only includes one paragraph about Windows 8 but it does detail the changes to Movie Maker 2012. I’ve now stopped searching for a new video editing tool and have started playing with Movie Maker 2012 to learn all of the new features. For those wondering, Movie Maker 2012 is available for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.
The following are 2 quotes from the aforementioned article that detail the audio and format changes to Windows Movie Maker 2012.
It now lets you record voice-over narrations, and Microsoft has partnered with AudioMicro, Free Music Archive, and the Vimeo Music Store to offer licensed background music for your video projects. The editor also now shows audio waveforms beneath clips so you can see the patterns of the music and narration. Narration can either be recorded as a new track on your PC, or taken from a previously recorded video or audio file. Mixing tools let you emphasize either the video’s original sound, the narration, or the background music.
Output and sharing options have been changed and augmented in the new version of Movie Maker, too. Now, the default output file is an MP4 using the H.264 codec. This is a far more popular format than the WMV files that Movie Maker used to output.