Tag Archives: Android

How the mighty are falling

Declining sales on phones lead Samsung to smart appliances

The controlling Lee family is trying to reinvent Samsung as a purveyor of Internet-connected appliances to grab share of a market that may be worth $7.1-trillion (U.S.) by 2020. Samsung wants to generate revenue from Tizen applications and services just as Apple Inc. and Google do from their operating systems, and the Suwon, South Korea-based company is emphasizing TVs and consumer electronics after falling a year behind schedule on a Tizen-based phone.

“In smartphones, there’s no chance that Samsung’s Tizen can edge out the two dominant operating systems,” said Claire Kim, a Seoul-based analyst at Daishin Securities Co. “But in TVs, Samsung may have a chance.”

Samsung’s rise to No. 1 in global phone sales depended on Google’s Android. Nearly all of the 243 million smartphones Samsung shipped through Sept. 30 ran the software, which Google typically gives away in return for mobile advertising revenue and a share of app sales.

Samsung faces the strongest challenge to its phone supremacy after posting the smallest quarterly earnings in more than two years. Operating profit at the mobile-phone unit, the company’s biggest cash generator, slumped 74 per cent in the September quarter and sales fell about 33 per cent.

I own an Apple TV and I just can’t get excited about paying extra for a smart TV when I can plug one of those or a Google Chomecast (or Amazon Kindle, Roku….) for under $100 (or under $40 for the Google Chromecast) into the TV and have a smart TV.

The smart appliance market may become huge but I can’t see the smart TV one being that big of deal at all, not when I can get my apps on my tablet and stream to my television.

Christmas Day

Hey, it’s Christmas Day this morning.

Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn.  We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home. 

Here is what everyone got.

Mark

Wendy and i gave Mark a new Asus MeMo Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet case.  

Asus MeMo Android Tablet

He wasn’t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away.  Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal.  He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal.  Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve.  I am hoping this helps him the new year.  If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers.  

Wendy gave him a VIA Rail shoulder bag with a drafting book inside.  It’s a murse!

The dogs got him the same kind of photography gloves that Wendy also got.

Maggi and Hutch gave him and Oliver PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that.  

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Santa Claus gave Mark a tactical flashlight and an old but amazing Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens.

Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens

I also gave him a and a brand new Pentax 35mm f2.4 lens which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll.  He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.

Oliver

As for Oliver, Wendy gave him a giant X-Wing fighter.  It is huge and he was thrilled.  Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced. 

T65 X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars

I gave him a toy AH-64 Apache attack helicopter  

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter

Mark got him a Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder.  I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing.  It comes with two lego characters.  Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT.  So yeah, that’s great.  

Lego Star Wars Snowspeeder

Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera.  It was an old one of mine that I didn’t use once in 2014.  Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.

Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set.  He’ll love it.

He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pair and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.

Bushmaster binoculars

You can imagine how excited he is about all of that.  You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.

Wendy

I gave Wendy a Sigma 19mm f2.8 Art Lens for Christmas.

Sigma 19mm Art f2 4 DN Lens

It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.

Oliver gave her a new knife set which she has wanted for a while.  He also gave her a J.A. Henckels’ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter.   So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.

J.A. Henckels' Chef Knife

Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.

Sennheisser 201HD Headphones

Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now).  Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.

Walmart Cheese Knife Set

Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.

Maggi and Hutch gave her some slippers that she later plans to chew up (it’s the circle of life). Considering Hutch and Maggi have no source of income, I am not sure how they did that.

Santa Claus gave Wendy a new LED tactical flashlight.  She wasn’t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the “Maiden” but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes.  I just told her that Santa was trolling her.  Santa also got her the same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.

Police Security Maven Flashlight

I was spoiled for Christmas. 

Wendy gave me a Pentax Q 01 Prime Lens.  It is a fixed f1.9 lens that you should see more of in the coming months.  She also gave me a Kata MarvelX-40 camera bag for the lens and my Pentax Q  

Pentax 01 Standard Prime Lens for the Pentax Q

Mark gave me a video light kit which will be used for OurYXE. 

CowboyStudio Light Kit


Oliver game me a canvas duffle bag from L.L. Bean with a Police Security tactical flashlight, and a Bushnell monocular in it. The dog gave me an old school Stanley thermos.

Large duffle bag from L.L. Bean

Police Security Maven Flashlight

Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.

Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.

I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2014 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

$150 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

Asus MeMo Pad 7

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and speaker.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 DSLR Camera

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4 Digital Camera
 
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

 
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by JVC at an affordable price.  They are for are for people who demand powerful, dynamic deep bass sound from their headphones which kind of describes every teenager I know.
 
One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.  The Oontz Angle comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  For $40 it provides excellent size, portability and most importantly, it sounds good.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

 
 
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
 
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.

Acer Aspire E-11 11.6-Inch Laptop They are only $200 at Amazon

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

 
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
With the Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo Printer, celebrating your special memories has never been more convenient. Lightweight and compact in size, the Selphy CP910 is easy to take just about anywhere. But it’s more than just portable; it’s also loaded with features, like Portrait Image Optimize, which allows you to relive those cherished moments with beautiful and long-lasting borderless 4” x 6” photo prints. What’s more, it’s AirPrint enabled, making wireless printing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch almost effortless. No drivers are needed! And Mobile Device Printing allows images on compatible Windows RT devices to be sent directly to the printer as well. Plus, with its new Access Point Mode, the Selphy CP910 allows you to directly connect your wireless camera or smart device without the need of a network.

 

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas Eve

After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.

Wendy

  • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
  • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
  • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
  • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

Olympis PEN EPL-2

Mark

  • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
  • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
  • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
  • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
  • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
  • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.

Oliver

  • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
  • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
  • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
  • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
Memorex CD Player
  • Hutch got him an art set
  • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder

Lee

  • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
  • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

Brittany

  • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
  • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.

Me

Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Why I hate the cloud.

I have had a Gmail account since Gmail opened it’s second round of invites years ago.  Users had five invites and because I was only two degrees separated from someone at Blogger, I got one.  It was like gold and it was amazing.  Within days I stopped using Outlook and started to rely on Gmail for all of my email.  The launch of Google Calendar meant that I could move my life to the cloud and it worked perfectly for me for years.  When I was at the Salvation Army Community Services, we used Google Apps to power email which meant that I never did need Outlook or anything there either.  With Google Calendar integration I could have my life at a glimpse.  While I was always frustrated that Google Contacts didn’t sync up Google apps and my personal address book, it worked well enough that I didn’t complain.

About six months ago a friend emailed from a major U.S. company.  I had sent him an unimportant email about a year earlier and he never got it until that day.  He blamed his company email system and I never thought about it.  During this time I would send my column to two different email addresses at The StarPhoenix and every once in a while I would get an email close to my deadline and it would be the editor asking for my column.  It kind of freaked me out but again I would think it was The StarPhoenix’s email system and I would send it again and it would be good.  I was using Google’s email system after all.  Now my editor just emails me back as soon as he gets it.  I still get nervous when I don’t get an immediate reply but he is human and could actually be doing other things but even two weeks ago I was surprised how long it took him to reply and I wondered if the column got there or if he was busy.   It isn’t just him, during that time I would email someone once in a while at The StarPhoenix and wouldn’t get a reply.  Some email gets replied to, some doesn’t and I figured it didn’t get replied to.

Then my email got hacked and it was a horrifying experience.  During that time I lost some email but blamed it on that.  I have a new password (my old one was only six letters and one digit long) and then brought in double authentication but I was still wondering why I didn’t get replies at times.  The last couple of weeks since I have had my new phone, it has been happening more and more and I was blaming the phone.  Like many of you, I have 3G connection issues in parts of Saskatoon and was wondering if that was the problem.  Over the last couple of days, everyone has been pissed off at me for missing emails and I realized I was also getting them out of sync.  I also fired off some important email and people are telling me they never got them.  That scared me because both were really tech competent people on reliable mail servers and the email was sent by my laptop via the Gmail interface.  No email client, no phone, just me and the computer sending to two different reliable email services. I contacted Google and haven’t heard a thing back.  I was searching my email tonight looking for emails that I knew I had not deleted and there was a massive hole from 2008 in it.  I know was recently hacked but those emails were restored.  No sign of it at all today.

I remember the rants that Tech Crunch used to have when Google Voice was offline and I now understand what they were so angry about.  Google isn’t just providing a service, they are providing a service I rely on dearly.  When the internet went down on my block, I can work around that, my primary email acct not working is horrific.  My friend Nathan had a horrible experience with Twitter.  It was mindboggling how stupid it was over a glitch that was completely their fault.  They finally just stopped talking to him about their problem and he was locked out of his account.  All of this contacts and followers were gone and there isn’t much you can do about it.

What’s even more bizarre is that when you read the Google help forums, I am not alone.  Some are user error but most are just disappearing emails.  The thing is that the reason I went to Gmail in the first place was because of Google’s reliability.   What I found out is that it is company that really offers no customer service at all.  They talk all of the time about the small % of users affected.  That’s great that it is .61% until you are one of the quarter of a million users that are affected and then it is no fun at all. 

The other hard part is that who do you contact at Google?  You can’t call them or write a support ticket.  You can leave a note in the forum.  Back in the days when Blogger was small and buggy, you knew you could email Ev or Biz and get a response.  Even today with Dreamhost, I can get a support ticket answered within minutes but I can’t with Google. 

I use Koodo as my cell phone provider.  It is horrible to use to send texts.  I just was sending texts back and forth with Seabass (if you know who I am talking about, you will get it) and I had about 10 “fail to send” texts but I know that my texts are not getting through and I know that he isn’t getting them.  Yet when I text’d a guy I’ll just refer to as Man-Bag yesterday, he said he never got it which is an entire other frustration.  Is it Koodo or Sasktel or the fact he may not understand his new iPhone.  It’s frustrating and now I am mad at Google, SaskTel, Man-Bag, and Koodo.  I’ll quit while I am behind.

I’d tell you to email me with your suggestions but I won’t get it.

Christmas Gift Guide: For Your Husband/Boyfriend/Men in Your Life | 2011 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and this year I get to kick off the festivities as mine will go first.  How cool is that?  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.

Leatherman New Wave Multitool | Last year Lee went out and bought Jordon a nice multi-tool and he has used it every day since then.  It’s amazing how many times it has come in handy around the house or when we have been out driving or at the lake.  It’s been used to fix the car, perform first aid, cut down a tree, screw in more than one screw, and open many a package.  You really don’t realize how handy and indispensible they are until you don’t have one around.  We have picked up some less inexpensive ones over the years and we keep one in both of our car safety kits and also up at the cabin.  If the guy you are shopping for doesn’t have one, get him one.
($62 at Amazon.com)

iPod Touch | If the guy you are shopping for has an iPhone then don’t bother but if he has an Android or Blackberry powered phone, don’t buy into the hype that they can listen to music with it.  They can but you can’t use iTunes and it’s a big time drain on the battery.  Get them a 4th generation iPod Touch and let them put their videos and music on it.  For Jordon, his iPod has many of the same apps that his phone does, it means that he can grab it any time he needs it, even if his phone is out of reach or charging.  Plus no matter how easy people tell you it is to get music on your Android or Blackberry, iTunes makes it easier.  While it won’t replace your HD camcorder, there was been a lot of times when we have it with us and it takes excellent HD video.  Photos are generally grainy but the video is good to excellent.
(32gb for $279 at Amazon.com)

Seinheisser CX 500-B headphones | Whatever you do, upgrade his headphones. The Apple headphones may be iconic but they aren’t very comfortable. Instead try the CX 500’s which are high quality, noise-isolating ear-canal phones with a crisp, clear, bass driven stereo sound. They feature a volume control integrated in the cable and come with a new, unique type of ear adapter for an improved fit and an even better passive noise attenuation.
($30 at Amazon.com)

Kindle Fire/Kobo Vox | If a iPad is out of your price range and you don’t want a Blackberry Playbook (not many of us do), why not look at an Android powered Kindle Fire or if you are in Canada, check out the Kobo Vox.  They aren’t iPads but they are not $500 either.  They allow you to install apps, read books, watch some video, install apps surf the web, play Angry Birds, tweet, and check email easily.

Which one should get?  Amazon has a faster tablet while the Kobo Vox is available in Canada.  There have been some pretty annoying issues with the Kobo Vox as Kobo has a reputation of shipping before it it is ready.  They have however released five firmware updates which means that the Vox is getting better with each release.
(Both are $200 at Amazon.com or Chapters)

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson | Read the summary and tell me that the tech geek in your life won’t want to read this.  Plus, after he is done with it, you can read it.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

($18 at Amazon.com)

The Wire | Season 1 ($21)| Season 2 ($21.49) | Season 3 ($21.49) |Season 4 ($21.49) | Season 5 ($21.49) | Complete Series ($149) | If you haven’t seen The Wire, you are missing out on one of the best shows ever made for television.  It’s more than the acting and the writing, it’s the concept of dedicating an entire season to one story and crime and letting it unfold.  I have watched the entire series twice with Jordon and it gets better wit age.  I really is worth watching and owning.  It would be a fantastic gift to any man on your Christmas gift.
(All seasons available at Amazon.com by clicking on the season link)

Ken Burns: Prohibition |  Well let’s see you have Ken Burns telling the story of prohibition so you have gangsters, smugglers, corrupt cops, good cops, and a government that was comfortable actually poisoning alcohol to keep it from being consumed.  Yeah, this is going to be a good documentary series.
($19 at Amazon.com)

Mad Men | Jordon got into Mad Men last Christmas and while advertising isn’t my passion, I have come to really enjoy the series.  It’s also reassuring that someone, somewhere is making television worth watching again.
(Season 1 is $10.49 at Amazon.com. Seasons 2, 3, & 4)

Tivoli Model One | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.
(Tivoli Model One is $149 at Amazon.com | Seagean WR-11 is $80 at Amazon.com)

Wooden Pocket Knife | Jordon’s grandfather carried a wooden pocket knife with him his entire life.  Today while in Eddie Bauer he was surprised to see a great looking wooden pocket knife for sale.  Eleven functions in one beautifully crafted tool: scissors, fish scaler, hook remover, reamer with sewing eye, can opener, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, flathead screwdriver, small blade, and large blade.
($15 at Eddie Bauer)

MI5 | I fell in love with this long running BBC series along with Jordon.  This is adult, post-watershed drama clearly inspired by the hard-hitting style of shows as 24 and The Sopranos.  I have never seen a show so willing to kill off major characters but the one that remains (Harry) pulls show all together.  It’s a lot of fun, action packed and even controversial.
(Season 1 is $22 at Amazon.com  Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9)

Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew | I bought this book for Jordon tis summer and he really enjoyed it.  It’s not a light read as it is a scholarly history of MI5 but it is readable and incredibly interesting.  I found myself fascinated by some of the stories he would read from it as well as the personalities of the people behind the vaunted intelligence agency.  If you loved one is a fan of history, you can’t go wrong with this book.
($18.15 from Amazon.com)

Fuji Finepix XP20 | Jordon bought this camera this summer and loves it.  It’s waterproof and ruggedized design means that it goes everywhere with him, including the sometimes clear/sometimes murky waters of Last Mountain Lake.  It features 14 megapixels resolution with an impressive 5x wide zoom with dual image stabilization to shoot sharp image quality in any condition. The 2.7 inch LCD is clear and easy to see even in bright conditions and the bright LED lights the way in the dark. Also it is equipped with a strengthened glass lens cover providing outdoor protection. Other features include one touch underwater movie recording, Motion Panorama with automatic stitch, Face Detection, HD Video, and more.
($135 at Amazon.com)

The Power Broker by Robert Caro | Both the postman and myself got hernias when this book was delivered.  It is 1344 pages and a Pulitzer Prize winner about Robert Moses.  Who was Robert Moses?  Well he was the urban designer that changed the face of New York City and much of New England forever.  His car centric urban design probably influenced how we live more than anyone else.  He was feared, hated, and admired all at the same time.  Just as it’s a book about Moses, it’s a biography of New York City.  This book is coming out as a movie (or a long mini-series) next year.  Read the book first.
($16.50 at Amazon.com)

Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power | I haven’t read it yet but Jordon said it was the best book he read in 2010.   The book is about Sergio Vieira de Mello’s who was a Brazilian United Nations diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.  He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 20 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.  While the book was quite compelling, it has also been made into a HBO movie.
($6.80 at Amazon.com)

Survivorman: The Complete Series | A couple of years ago Jordon was surfing the television and stumbled upon Les Stroud surviving a week in Alaska and all of us got hooked on the show.  We own all three seasons (Season 1, 2, 3) but you can get the entire series in one box from Less Stroud’s online store.  If you are interested in the cultures Stroud interacted with on the show, make sure you check out the complete series of Beyond Survival
($69 from Les Stroud.ca)

Tabletop fountain | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At the Salvation Army Community Services, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
($37 from Amazon.com)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | I never bought Jordon video games but he has made a sacred vow never to let Mark beat him at a game and so every once in a while Jordon takes a couple of days and beats a game.  This year he beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Call of Duty: World at War and InFamous for the Playstation 3.  While he talks of the sacred vow, deep down he does it to escape and unwind.  If Jordon was creating this list, he would add Infamous 2 and Battlefield 3 to the list.  Depending on how old the game is, you can get them for a really good deal.
(Call of Duty is $59 at Amazon.com)

Kodak Zx5 Playsport | Jordon is a big fan of is Kodak Zi8 camera but Kodak isn’t making them any longer and has instead brought out the Zx5 Playsport.  It’s ruggedized, water proof (even has underwater white balance and shoots stunning video).  While we have a camcorder, you would be amazed at the amount of time we shot great video with our Kodak because we had it with us.
($109 at Amazon.com)

Creative Vado | The third generation of the Creative Vado may not be ruggedized but does have an external microphone port which means that with a lavalier or a shotgun microphone, you are going to get much better audio than you would with most standard camcorders.  Not only is the price right but along with Kodak Playsport, it offers up a wide variety of video options as well.
($79 at Amazon.com)

Note: If you are looking for some inexpensive video editing software, check out this list from PC World.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Samsung Galaxy Ace

My Blackberry Curve was my first smartphone and I really liked it.  I was planning to upgrade it this year to a new Blackberry Curve while RIM was making better hardware, they seemed to drop the ball on getting their new software out.  As I have written on Twitter, I had planned to go out and buy a Blackberry Playbook when the price dropped but RIM then delayed the new version of it’s operating system and then raised the price back up to $500 again.  It also doesn’t have Skype, native email, or even a Twitter app.  It’s just a web browser with a camera that can’t be used to communicate with other systems.  It doesn’t even have BBM unless your Blackberry is close by.  With more and more app makers dropping support for RIM, it didn’t make a bunch of sense to pay $300 for a new Blackberry Curve, no matter how much I liked it.  It’s kind of like buying a Nokia smartphone running Symbian or a Windows Phone 7 for that matter.  This letter to RIM senior management from a top level executive kind of sums it all up.

Samsung Galaxy AceDuring this time I went out and bought Wendy an entry level Android phone.  The Samsung Galaxy 550 isn’t spectacular but as much as I hated to admit it, it was better than my Blackberry.  When I saw that Koodo had the Samsung Galaxy Ace I decided to go out and get one.  Earlier this year Koodo had given me a $50 upgrade credit which made a good deal a better deal.

It came with a 4gb Compact SD card which is nice but not that great and after a couple of minutes it was full of Twitter, Foursquare and most of my favourite apps.  While the Google Sync app for the Blackberry was nice, it isn’t being extended with many of the new features.  I appreciate the native integration with Google Apps and again, a nice feature is up-to-date apps and an operating system that is actually being developed and unlike RIM, is shipping.

While the hardware isn’t nearly as beautiful as the Apple iPhone, software wise Android is comparable to iOS.  I know some Apple partisans out there will be flipping out on that suggestions but it was Apple fan boys that talked me into switching to Android.  It’s that good.

4G speed

While I loved my Blackberry Curve, it’s still CDMA and I want to take advantage of SaskTel’s new network.  Plus, the HSPA network has better coverage at the cabin.  Instead of the new Blackberry Curve, I am thinking of getting the new Samsung Galaxy Ace.  The Blackberry apps really are inferior and with declining market share and a new Operating System coming, I can’t see that changing.  If Koodo had the Blackberry Torch, I may be tempted to stay with it but I am not sure that Blackberry Messenger is enough for me to stay.  Thoughts?

Another horrible strategic move by Nokia

Since launching Windows Phone 7, it’s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.

The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.

i don’t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it.  No one I know even talks about it.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for the Road Warrior / World Traveller | 2010 Edition

It’s just about time for every radio station to start playing holiday music, so that makes it a good time to be thinking about gifts for that special road warrior in your life.  In case you don’t find what you are looking for, check out the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides.

Apple iPad |  If your loved on spends a lot of time travelling, waiting, improvising, problem solving, and then some more travelling, you will want to get them an iPad to allow them to work on the plan, the road, in line, in their hotel, and everywhere in between.

From $529 at Amazon or from $499 at the Apple Store

If they don’t want an iPad, you can also pick up some Android Tablets pretty inexpensively like this one from Walgreens for only $129.

JanSport Antics Wheeled Backpack :: If you are like me, you have your laptop, PSP, iPod, a book, magazine, and a drink or two with you when you go on the plane.  While none of them weigh that much together, they do add up.  Your loved one could carry all of that with them but believe me, a wheeled backpack is a wonderful thing to have as you stand in line at the counter, stand in line at security, stand in line at Starbucks, and stand in line while waiting to board.  Travelling can be enough of a mental and physical workout without having to heave your luggage around or have to worry about your laptop.  $71.25 from Amazon

Nightwave Sleep Aid | Many road warriors have spent many nights trying to fall to sleep for a variety of reasons.  Different bed, time zone issues and the stress of a big meeting tomorrow.  The Nightwave is designed to help you find that needed sleep naturally.  Nightwave silently guides you in a pre-sleep relaxation session in the privacy of your own bedroom. it’s like having your own personal sleep coach.  Nightwave projects a soft blue light into your darkened bedroom. the “luminance” of the light slowly rises and falls.  You lie with eyes open and synchronize your breathing with the wave of soft light as its movement becomes slower and slower. after a short time, Nightwave shuts off and you roll over and fall asleep. and unlike sound machines, the soft light does not disturb others.  Why does Nightwave work? Nightwave works so well because it quiets the mind and relaxes the body. With Nightwave, a gentle focus on an external cue gives you an escape from the overactive mind. $33.75 from Amazon

Pelican Micro Case :: Are you going to trust the airline to keep your loved ones iPod, cell phone, or Blackberry safe?  I wouldn’t either.  Toss them in one of these Pelican Micro Cases and while the airline may destroy their bag, they will at least be able to phone and complain.

Keeping these portable devices charged is a tough task when you’re always on the go, and that’s why we recommend the Energizer Energi To Go XP4000. The XP4000 is a portable rechargeable power pack which can charge anything with a USB connection, whether it be an iPod, iPhone, or a digital camera. The power pack comes with various tips including mini-USB, micro-USB, iPod dock connector, and others used for a slew of smartphone manufacturers such as Motorola and Nokia. The Energi To Go XP4000 can be purchased from Amazon.com for around $60 with free shipping.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones :: I still remember the first time I flew and turned on my fairly inexpensive noise cancelling headphones.  The engine noise disappeared, the voices around me became audible and I was far more refreshed as I stopped off the plane.  It also made it much easier to sleep.  While Bose sets the standard for noise cancelling headphones, you can pick up some Sony noise cancelling headphones for quite a bit less money.

If their computer’s webcam leaves something to be desired, how about getting them one of Microsoft Lifecam HD webcams. This webcam, delivers smooth, detailed 16:9 video in full 720p HD quality. Optimized for Windows Live, the LifeCam Cinema also works with Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Skype for video calls and messaging.  The camera has good low light performance and gives your favorite road warrior a way to chat to their family at the end of a long flight or day on the road.  It’s only a couple of years late but it finally give PC users a webcam to rival Apple’s amazing iSight.

As most everyone will witness this holiday season, getting through airport security will be a mess and Timbuk2 is here to help. The new Commute 2.0 and Blogger 2.0 bags are the greatest laptop bags for a quick whisk through the TSA lines. They both offer a laptop compartment that unzips so you don’t have to go through the hassle of taking your laptop out. If that isn’t enough to convince you, both also have a waterproof front flap to keep your valuables dry in stormy weather. The Commute 2.0 and Blogger 2.0 bags from Timbuk2 sell for $100 each.

Fujifilm FinePix XP10 | The FinePix XP10 is a four-proof digital cameras – waterproof, freezeproof, shockproof and dustproof. Resulting from a redesign of Fujifilm’s best-selling FinePix Z33WP, the FinePix XP10 is an ergonomically “life proof” camera housed in a metal uni-body chassis with a tactile grip finish.  The details: 12MP, Fujinon 5x Periscopic Optical Zoom, 2.7″ LCD, waterproof – 10ft (3M), shockproof – 3ft (1M) and freezeproof 14*F (-10*C). Other features include: Face Detection w/ Red Eye Removal, Digital Image Stabilization, High Sensitivity 1600 ISO, 6 Scene – SR Auto Automatic Scene Recognition, One-Touch HD Movie 720p w/ Sound, Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery.  It all adds up to one of the best compact cameras that have come along for years.  $142 from Amazon

Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive | The Iomega eGo is a serious hard drive for serious business travelers. The portable drive has a sturdy steel enclosure and a special feature that protects data against falls. The palm-size device weighs less than 7 ounces, yet has 500GB of capacity, enough to store up to two million photos, more than 9,000 hours of music or 750 hours of video. Available in red, silver, blue, and black. $88 from Amazon

Cowhide Leather Zipper Travel Wallet | I am not sure why I took so long to get on the travel wallet bandwagon but one folder for your airline tickets, some cash, passport, and a pen is a wonderful idea.  It really does simplify heading through the ticket line, boarding line, security line, and customs. $19.99 from Amazon

If you can find what you are looking for, make sure you check out one of the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides

In case you are looking, here are the 2009 Gift Guides

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.