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CES 2013 Provides No Answers to My Tablet Dilemma

From the safe, somewhat chilly confines of my Chicagoland abode, I have been remotely watching the goings-on at CES in sunny Las Vegas. So far, I've seen some pretty sweet gadgets: Window cleaning robots! Nanocoating for cellphones! Roving game balls!

However, the news I'm seeing on the tablet/cellphone front is, for lack of a better word, boring. Sure, there's the Windows 8 all-in-one laptops/tablets and the Surface Pro, but we've known about those for some time... plus, the Surface Pro is more laptop than tablet IMO (with battery life to match, I'm guessing.) The Ubuntu mobile OS is exciting, but way too far off, and may very well be dead/outdated before it even hits. BlackBerry 10 looks promising, but will it get the developer and consumer support it needs after being asleep at the wheel for so long? Who knows.

This serves as a reminder of how difficult it is to get one device that does all the things I want well, which is partly due to hardware, partly due to software, and largely due to limitations of said software. This is part of the reason I recently acquired a Microsoft Surface, a tablet I've fallen in love with, but still can't replace both my Nexus 7 and my iPad mini. I figured it was a good time to break down what I'd really like to see in a tablet, by discussing who's ahead and who's behind for each feature.

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I Found The Perfect iPad Mini / Nexus 7 Tablet Stand...

...and it was only 12 stinkin' bucks.

My whole life, I've zealously protected my gadgets with cases and screen protectors, and in recent times, cases with built-in stands for my tablets.

However, the current crop of svelte, super-sexy tablets like my iPad mini and Asus Nexus 7 demand to be used "naked." The iPad mini feels positively industrial, almost alien, due to its cool metal backing and extreme thinness. The Nexus 7 feels familiar yet sporty with its "perforated" rubberized back, which resembles (not coincidentally, I imagine) a leather-wrapped sports car steering wheel.

I don't want to experience these devices with "protection." I want to raw dog these gorgeous gadgets.

Do you know how hard that is to do without getting a full case with built in stand? Do you? Try going to your local Awesome Buy or Office Shmaxx and getting just a stand that can be used to prop your tablet up without wrapping it up in some stupid overpriced sheath. I finally found one, of the

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From PC to Mac and Back: For Me, Apple Isn't As Fun Anymore

I can't hold it in any longer. I'm experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance here with some of my recent choices regarding technology. Back in the day, I was a hardcore dedicated DOS guy. Between running my own BBS (it was called The Laughing Dog. I need to dig up some of my ANSI/ASCII art one of these days) playing Doom over 2400 baud modem and watching demoscene intros, I couldn't imagine using a Mac. I ridiculed the PowerMacs we had at my high school -- they simply felt sluggish and limited to me.

When OS X was first introduced, however, Mac was going through a huge renaissance. I was intrigued, and was slowly introduced to the world of Apple through a co-worker. A year later, I pulled the trigger on an iBook G3, and for many years, I could easily have been labeled a "fanboy." Yes, the annoying kind that recommended Apple to hapless, frustrated Windows XP and Vista users, stating that "you should just get a Mac, X thing would be so much easier, blah blah blah." Several iPods and and upgraded MacBook later, I found myself spending the big bucks on the first iPhone after a brief stint with a Treo 650 (running Palm OS before that went all to hell) and a Samsung BlackJack with Windows Mobile (ugh.)

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Yet Another Branded Headphone? Review of SOUL by Ludacris SL150's

Before you dismiss me as a slave to the marketing machine--I discovered a long time ago that when it comes to headphones, I'm definitely not the "audiophile" type. My taste in music gravitates to hardcore electronic music, bass-heavy deep house, and virtually all types of metal ranging from brutal death to Viking, and butt-bouncing, stanky funk--with a sprinkle of chillout, classic rock, and bluegrass, but I digress. The point is that I want a headphone with presence, punch, killer bass, and a powerful sound.

This is what drew me to the Beats by Dre Solo's, which certainly provided the bass punch I was looking for. I was very happy with them, but alas, they recently experienced a snap in the plastic headband, rendering them effectively uselsss. Of course, I used this as an excuse to upgrade to a nicer pair. Why not the Beats by Dre Studios, you ask? Too damn expensive. So I looked elsewhere, and given the positive reviews I was finding, I went with the SOUL by Ludacris SL150's (

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First Step Into Fitness Gadgets: Review of the MOTOACTV GPS Android-Powered Smartwatch

Years ago, I blogged about what was probably my first ever fitness "gadget," or more accurately, fitness game--DDR. DDR, also known as Dance Dance Revolution, was my first step (pun intended) into utilizing technology to help further my fitness.

Since then, my primary gadgets for sweating off all that Thai food and beer have been MP3 players of some variety. I started with an Apple iPod Classic but found it too bulky, then switched to a Sansa Clip, which was later upgraded to a Sansa Clip+. Those little players have accompanied me on thousands of workouts, whether a simple elliptical session, a run through the weight circuit, kettlebell training, or even just a quick walk.

Recently though, partially inspired by my better half, who will be running a half marathon in September, I've taken up "running." I put running in quotes because I'm just a beginner and some may refer to it as jogging, but I digress. I like data, and therefore I like tracking, and one way to ensure I progress in my workouts is to log my performance each time--which I do religiously for my shovelglove and kettlebell sessions... and also wanted to apply to my runs.

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Fascinated By A Phablet: Is The Galaxy Note Better, or Just Bigger?

America's obsession with size, whether large or diminutive, is an ongoing exercise in opposites, a constant battle between "thin is in" and "fat is fabulous." Cliches aside, society's always been obsessed with the mass of virtually anything, from models to fast food portion sizes--and the tech industry is no exception.

I'm used to the notion that technology has always strived to make things smaller--more portable ultrabooks/netbooks, tiny cellphones, and mini computers abound--and that is what is desirable. The Galaxy Note by Samsung challenges that concept, pushing the form factor of a candybar, all-screen mobile device to something not a smartphone, not yet a tablet either. This has been dubbed the "phablet" by some, and its success in the marketplace has been pretty solid

Even through I've said great things about Sprint in the past, and recently switched to change to an Android phone, some recent troubles with customer service and reception quality led me to leave them and return to AT

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Gallavanting with Google: A Mac Guy's Ride With Android (So Far)

Not long ago, I "switched" from an iPhone 4 to a Google/Samsung Nexus S 4G, effectively making the transition from an iOS dominated gadget life to a half and half approach. (I'm too vested in the App Store and I love my iPad 2 as a tablet.)

[Image Via]

Usually, when I tell people about this decision, they ask "Why?" as if it's some strange sort of crime to try something new, or perhaps, as a self-professed Apple fan, that it's sacriledge to go to the dark side of Droid. That's all nonsense. I simply was sick of AT&T, and wanted to give Android a true go at everyday use.

I also envied the talk of custom roms and kernels, and longed for the ability to tweak and hack my phone as I please without hassle. (Yes, jailbreaking is kind of a hassle, since Apple doesn't really support or like it, where the Android community seems to embrace it.)

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NETGEAR's NTV200 Turns Your TV Into a Smart TV

I love streaming Internet content. In fact, I almost never watch broadcast TV or rent/buy physical movies--I purchase and watch everything online. Mostly with Netflix, but I use other services from time to time. I'm also a pretty active Pandora user. 

Lots of TV's that are being sold now are "smart" TV's, meaning that they have apps you can install which will allow you to watch Internet content. The problem is, naturally, that many of us don't own TV's that have these features. Perhaps you're like me and do most of your watching on a widescreen monitor rather than a full-blown television. 

Either way, the NTV200 is an awesome gadget that bridges the gap between your monitor or current television and Internet content. It's super easy to set up and get started, and after using it often for several weeks now, I can safely say it's earned a permanent place in my entertainment setup. Check out the video below for more details on what the NTV200 can do for you!

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SpikenzieLabs Solder:Time Review--A Fun, Tech-y Watch Project Kit

I'm a self-professed watch geek. Although I'll probably never be likely to drop the required funds on some of my dream watches (or "grails" as the watch community calls them) I fuel my habit with unique, reasonably priced timekeepers.

Like many, I have a specific love for mechanical wristwatches, both vintage and new. The fact that a small, perpetual, precision machine can live on my wrist fascinates me, and it might fascinate you, too! However, sometimes my love for technology can intersect with the watch world, and the perfect embodiment of this nexus is the Solder::Time.

What is the Solder:Time Watch Kit?

The Solder:Time is a kit created by Spikenzie Labs, purveyors of gadget projects galore. From a simple, non-electronic Connect Four kit to electronic dice, there's a lot to choose from.

Basically, it's a larger, DIY version of a simple digital quartz watch. And by larger, I mean pretty huge for most people. (Fortunately, I have big wrists, so I have no problem pulling it off. It would make a pretty sweet desk clock for those deficient of wrist bulk.)

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Steve Jobs: Thank You For Changing The Way I View Technology

In the 1980's, you changed the way I played video games, and helped give me a few cases of dysentery on my library visits.

In 2002, you changed the way the I view portable computing. My iBook G3 accompanied me virtually every single day, and OS X changed the way I view how a personal computer could function.

In 2003, you changed the way I listened to music. Through many interesting times, my third generation iPod blasted tunes in my car and in my headphones.

In 2006, you changed the way I work with my upgraded MacBook. You also changed another person's view on portable computing when they received my old iBook, which continued to work reliably for several more years.

In 2007, you changed what a mobile phone meant to me, and many others, with the iPhone--undoubtably one of the sexiest consumer electronics products ever made, and which has shaped the mobile phone market as we know it. It wasn't the best at everything, but it was a "magical" product to be sure.

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Fling iPad Joystick Review: Just Like A Real Controller... Sort Of

Hardcore gamers often dismiss the iPad and iPhone platforms as being for "casual players only" or not having the depth of traditional console games. However, it's becoming more and more relevant as a gaming platform due to the sheer volume and popularity of titles available--along with the technical capabilities of the platform.

One technical capability the iDevice family does not have, however, is a joystick (or joysticks.) You're left with only a capacitive touchscreen, which, though usable, can often be pretty miserable for gaming. Especially for those of short fingers, like yours truly--effective dual stick gaming on a touchscreen usually ends up being a painful. achy affair.

Fling to the Rescue

This is where Fling comes in. Made by Ten One Design, the Fling can be purchased alone or in a pair. Its construction is pretty ingenious, actually... a center thumbpad is mounted inside a plastic circle so it can rotate freely. This circle is attached to a springlike plastic coil that moves with the thumbpad and creates tension--so it will revert back to neutral when no pressure is applied. The bottom of the thumbpad is a capacitive surface, stepping in as stunt double for your digits.

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ToodleDo for iPhone, iPad (and More) Syncs with the Cloud and Gets Things Done

Ever notice how in real life, the engineers, mechanics, and managers behind the scenes often go unnoticed by the media and company peers? Usually, it's their much flashier counterparts such as outgoing salespeople, super-social marketers, and artsy designers that tend to steal the thunder.

The same thing goes for apps these days. Everybody goes ga-ga (GaGa?) over games like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump, photo apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, and social networking portals like Twitter or Facebook

As for me--my most used web app and mobile app is ToodleDo. Not a game, not a photo manipulation app, but a hardworking, down to earth to-do list.

Why ToodleDo?

Good question. Frankly, there are TONS of to-do apps available, ranging from online-only solutions to mobile apps to iPad apps and it goes on and on and on. I chose ToodleDo because while it remains simple to use--it contains many layers of customization that you can use if you like. Plus, it's pretty cheap--$14.95 per year. (For the record,

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I Don't Need No iPod Nano: It's the Sansa Clip (with Rockbox) for Me

I'm always interested in staying at the forefront of technology--as long as it makes sense, is reasonably affordable, and fits somewhere into my life. This usually comes in the form of being the first in line for a new Apple tablet or perhaps adopting brand new gadgets far before they hit their prime, if ever.

One notable exception, however, is the world of MP3 players. Being a self-professed Apple guy and iDevice fan, you'd think my primary music player of choice would be an iPod--but you'd be thinking wrong.

It's a Sansa Clip.

What's a Sansa Clip?

Sandisk, the maker of Sansa products, is one of the foremost "please, ANYTHING but an iPod" MP3 manufacturers out there, and are known for making a quality product. The Clip is no exception.

It's small, durable, cheap, and packed with features such as a built-in FM tuner, adjustable equalizer, and so on. It even comes with decent headphones.

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iOS--Giving Retro Gaming a Burst of Life on the iPhone and iPad

Now that all the kids of the 80's and 90's are all growed up, there's a sort of "neu-retro" revival in gaming. Of course, it's been going on for years, especially in the PC scene--but lately, the library of retro (and retro-inspired) games has exploded on the App Store. I couldn't be happier.

Whether you love or hate the App Store, its power to bring unknown indie developers to the forefront in a matter of days is undeniable. Many of these indie developers crave and love retro influences, and many people who are gaming on the iOS platform do too--and that ecosystem has really injected some Miracle-Gro into the scene.

I'd like to highlight some of my favorite titles for iPhone/iPad that are either retro remakes or retro inspired. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

The Incident

The Incident isn't really a retro remake, but it's certainly inspired by the pixellated graphics of days past. In particular, this title's visual style reminds me of the SCUMM games from LucasArts, e.g., Monkey Island and the like.

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Apple's iPad 2: Incremental Money Grab or Must Have Upgrade?

For every raving Apple fan who will be camping outside their local Apple Store, there's a naysayer dissing Steve Jobs and the fruit collective, and the release of the iPad 2 is bringing no different behavior.

For the record, the iPad, for me, has become my favorite gadget of all time up to this point--no doubt, no hesitation. I use it daily and it has all but replaced my laptop for in-home media consumption, Internet browsing, movie watching, reading, and RSS reading. It's elegant, efficient, and simple. I have dozens of apps and over a hundred games, many of which I play daily or weekly. So, you'd think I'd be jumping like a hungry dog on a leash for an iPad 2... but I'm not. 

What's Different About the iPad 2?

Well, the iPad 2 is certainly an upgrade--but more of a refresh than a completely new product.

  • It's thinner and lighter.
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Sick of Waiting for Diablo III? Give Din's Curse a Try

I love dungeon crawlers, roguelikes, and generally bashing in the heads of multiple monsters while obsessively collecting loot and items through randomly generated labyrinths. Sometimes, though, I'm in the mood for something not-ASCII rendered (ruling out many roguelikes) and a bit more dynamic than something like Torchlight. I'm also sick of waiting for Diablo III to come out, although it will be epic when it does.

So, are you ready to scratch the itch? Give Din's Curse a whirl.

What is Din's Curse?

Essentially, Din's Curse is a lot like Diablo, but different enough to warrant stripping it of a "clone" label. Rather than being a ripoff of the classic dungeon crawler, Din's Curse takes any of the concepts of Diablo, twists them around, randomizes them, and makes for a wholly unique experience. I'd call it an immersive, dynamic dungeon crawler.

Din's Curse Gameplay

This indie gem, fortunately, doesn't bog you down with a laborious, novel-like story. It's rather simple, actually--you've been naughty in your previous life, and treated people like crap. Thus, the vengeful god, Din, has cursed you with a lifetime of service helping others. Not that helping others is bad, of course--you just have no choice. So, you must trek onward, traveling from town to town, saving the citizens from the dangers below ground.

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Apple Releases the Mac App Store, I Get A Little Scared

Yep, the subject line just about sums up my feelings on the Mac App Store.  I love Apple products, but I'm not exactly going to herald the arrival of the all-too-overhyped marketplace with a red carpet or anything.  This idea has been done before, with Bodega, only part of the revenue from sales (a big part) will go to Apple instead of developers, in exchange for a larger audience.

So what is it?

The Mac App Store is simply a marketplace for you to discover, install, and purchase Mac applications.  If you have an iDevice, you're already intimately familiar with how the process works.

What's good about it?

Well, at least a few things.  

  • It's easy.  It removes any active thought and involvement from the install process, as if that was ever really a problem for Mac users, but whatever.  
  • It's a discovery mechanism and a catalog, making it easier for "average" users to discover apps they might otherwise not have found.
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Give the Gift of Indie Gaming for 2010: Super Meat Boy, Minecraft, and More

Not sure what to get that gamer nerd in your life for the holidays this year?  Sick of buying those stupid gift certificates?  Want to get them something unique they'll remember for a long time, and that may even open up a whole new world of gaming for them?  

Look no further than the blossoming indie gaming scene, which is like the old shareware days on super-steroids.  Creativity, quality, and uniqueness abound - all for great prices, too - forget paying $59.99 for a full gaming experience here.

Check out some of my latest addictions and favorite picks.  Steam lets you gift games easily, so get crackin' on that list!!

Super Meat Boy - XBOX Live Arcade and Steam

In Super Meat Boy, you play, well, a cube-shaped cartoon boy without any skin.  Hence, Super Meat Boy.  I'd classify this as an "ultra-hard," distilled, extremely fast-paced platforming experience.  Your objective is simple enough - rescue your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil clutches of Dr. Fetus.

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Epic Citadel and the Future of iPhone & iPad Gaming

A few years back, it was certainly debatable that the iPhone would be a viable platform for gaming; limited performance and a fledgling App Store  would create doubts in the mind of many an analyst and gamer.

Now, it's basically un-debatable that the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are viable devices for gaming... at least casual gaming.  The App Store has exploded (it even has FarmVille.) 120 million iDevices have shipped to consumers.  There have been 6.5 billion downloads on the App Store, with 200 apps downloaded every second.  About 36,000 of those available apps are games, according to 148apps's tracking.  Clearly, the numbers don't lie. (See Apple's latest keynote for more fun numbers, random adjectives, and marketing fluff.)

 

The problem is that the iDevice app world simply can't erase its image as a land where only toothless, soft-bellied casual games roam.  I mean, seriously, real gamers don't want to toss birds at pigs or drop coins do they?

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Carcassonne App Review: A Must Have iPhone 4 Game

With the arrival of the much anticipated (and now infamous) iPhone 4 came a slew of "enhanced" or even specifically optimized titles for the new device.  This makes sense, due to the many upgrades in the new hardware, including (but not limited to) the ridiculously high-res Retina Display to the new gyroscope.

Of course, gaming is where a lot of these enhancements will really come into their own, as is evident by titles such as Eliminate: Gun Range, which not only utilizes every pixel there is to be had but also incorporates the gyroscope for super-accurate tracking.  You should check it out.  But, this review is for Carcassonne - one of my favorite, if not my all-time favorite, games for the iOS platform - and it's especially juiced up for the iPhone 4.

What is Carcassonne?

Even the intro screen is gorgeous.

This fabulous game did not originate on the iPrecious.

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