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My week with a Windows 8.1 tablet

A week or so ago I had an opportunity to purchase an inexpensive 8" tablet that ran a full version of Windows 8.1. So, being the adventurous sort, I headed out to the mall bright and early to get in line for a killer doorbuster deal. Although I didn't get the super-duper-amazing-low-price, I did manage to get the super-amazing-low-price, so I decided it was good enough to pick it up and try it out for a week to see what I thought about it. Who knows, I thought, it could even become me regular go-to tablet. 
At first, I was planning to give it to my wife, but she decided she wanted to stick with her Nexus 7 (man that's a great tablet). So I started my experience, setting up my account the same way that you set up a regular Windows 8.1 desktop. In fact the process was completely 100% identical from the user experience, that is except for pushing buttons on a screen instead of a keyboard. 
Once the account was set up, I started to explore how this thing works. First, I have…

7th Time's the Charm

This past week Apple released it's 7th generation of iOS, and of course, as an Apple fan, I was hitting refresh all afternoon waiting for the update. This is one of the most radical updates of iOS, as it completely changes the look and feel, leaving almost nothing familiar from the old skin. People have been asking me what I think of this new update, and so here are a few of my thoughts.
So what don't I like? Honestly, the new look-and-feel is going to take quite a while to grow on me. After using it for a few days it's not quite as shocking as it first was for me, but I still can't truthfully say that I like it. The colors are overly bright, the animations seem supurflus and slow down interaction time, and some basic paradigms have been changed, forcing a re-learning.
First, I find the color scheme a bit too bright for my taste. The abundance of white just seems to blast the eyes, despite the other soothing pastel colors. The flat look isn't that bad, but sometimes …

H4terZ?

The Verge recently posted an article that referenced Rush Limbaugh, and his belief that the tech blog press is made up of Apple 'haters'. He goes on to equate this to how mainstream media is biased against the Republican party, but this is a tech blog, so I'll leave the politics for another day.

The comments from readers have been overwhelmingly negative towards his assertion, saying that in fact the tech press is too much in bed with Apple, not the other way around. But it did put into place something that I've personally noticed more and more lately. It's not that tech bloggers want to 'hate' Apple. In fact most of them are Mac Book Pro toting, iPhone using, iPad on-the-toilet-reading, Apple fans with their foot firmly in the Apple ecosystem. It's simply that many of them are dealing with a subtle undercurrent in the industry right now that is nervous about if Apple can keep up it's innovative dominance.

Ever since the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple…

Getting Work Done Online - Presentation

Editor's note: This weeks article is brought to you by Wesley Allen. Wes is an expert in presentation technologies and the creator of a technique called "Sermon Painting" which gives pastors more effective tools to integrate media into their teaching ministries.

In this article I'll be comparing three web-based presentation applications — Google Presentations, PowerPoint on SkyDrive, and the beta of Apple's Keynote in the cloud. Yes, Keynote is a beta, but this series is including it because Apple is more than fashionably late to idea of cloud-base office suites. There are other options out on the web, including ZoHo office and Prezi, but we're limiting ourselves to the threes suites compared throughout this series.
User Interface User Interfaces in web-apps has come a long way over the years. As the web has matured web apps have begun feel like applications, instead of forms forced into a browser interface. As such, the three presentation applications I …

Getting Work Done Online - Document

Document In this edition of Getting Work Done Online we'll be taking a look at the workhorse of any office suite, the word processor. Online text editing has been around in some fashion for many years, but it's never really been captured effectively until recently. The ubiquitous 'Word doc' has been the gold standard for text documents for over two decades. Now, with the advent of some on-line competitors, as well as it's own attempt, writing your term paper can maybe be done in the cloud. 
Again, I used a personal document as my test. Just like last week there were some issues with the file, but this time it was my own fault. The file I used was from many years ago when I had decided to work with OpenOffice for my word processor of choice, while I was in graduate school. Thankfully Google Drive was able to import it, but the result was less than ideal. So I took the imported document, exported it to Word, cleaned it up, and re-imported it into each of the three s…

Getting Work Done Online - Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet In this installment of Getting Things Done Online we're going to look at the spreadsheet component of our big three offerings. As with many of these posts, I'm going to use a real-life example as a way to show the differences and similarities between the products. In this case, I fired up my personal budget spreadsheet. It's a semi-complicated spreadsheet with multiple cross-sheet references, a pie chart, and a multi-nested 'IF' formula to do paycheck withholding for both Federal and State (Minnesota) taxes. There are plenty of other features I could also review, but I wanted this to be a real-life example, and not just a mock-up stress test.

First, some background on the file that I used to perform this review, and how I got it imported into each of the services. My budget spreadsheet was originally done using an old version of Excel many, many years ago. When Apple's iWork Numbers came out, I converted it to that, and was mostly happy with it for…

Blog domain name

Just a real quick update that this blog now has it's own domain name. You can get to it at http://www.libarttech.net/. The old blogger address will continue to work as well, but wanted to share the new custom DNS name.

Getting Work Done Online - Introduction

I'm a huge fan of cloud based computing, especially for productivity applications. With the advent of the iCloud Beta, there are now three major players in this space, and I'm going to take some time over the next few weeks to give an overview of each offering.

The three leading companies (in the U.S.) I'll be looking at, are Google, with Google Drive/Apps, Microsoft with SkyDrive/Office365, and Apple with iCloud. Each upcoming piece (hopefully weekly) will focus on one component of their productivity suite (order subject to change):
Word processingSpreadsheetPresentationEmailCalendarMessaging Finally, I hope to tie it all together with talking about how the different systems tie themselves together into an ecosystem.
My hope is to also have a guest writer for at least one of these components, lending their expertise. So stick around for the next few weeks as I start a review catalog of how you can best get work done online!

Oh Instant Messaging, I hardly knew you

For many years, I've been a big fan of Instant Messaging as a way to communicate with friends, especially those in other parts of the country. Sure e-mail works, but if you want to have a conversation with someone immediately, with a lot of back and forth, IM was the way to go. I jumped on the IM bandwagon all the way back in the ICQ days (and no, I don't remember my number). Followed by a bunch of years maintaining multiple protocols at the 'Big 3' at the time; AOL Instant Messaging (AIM), MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. Many of us recall the years of running three different clients on our desktop at all times, because all of our friends used different systems. Thankfully, it wasn't too long before multi-protocol clients came into play and we could start to consolidate.

Google was a late comer to the market, but it's GTalk Instant Messenger caught on fast. It was slim and trim and since GMail was the rage, everyone had a log-in. Slowly, over the course of 5…

Ive been thinking of a number between 6 and 8

Today, the internet was all a buzz about the keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. In particular the star of the show was the premiere of the totally redesigned iOS 7. Since I'm an Apple geek, I felt it was my sacred duty to add to the plethora of pundits and commentators, and add my two cents about this radical design change.

When Scott Forstall left Apple and Jonny Ive was given control over software design, it became a foregone conclusion that skeuomorphisms were going to be a thing of the past. Ive has made his views on them quite clear, and so the first thing that was shown the door with this new design was the wood bookcases, the green felt, the yellow legal pad and any semblance of leather stitching. During today's presentation there were even multiple jokes about the lack of these textures anywhere in the new design. Not sure if Forstall was watching, but for his sake, I kinda almost hoped he wasn't.

So about the design in general... The first thin…

By hook or by Nook

One of the big tech stories this past week that caught my eye, was the announcement that Barnes & Noble's Nook platform may not be long for this world. At least not in it's current shape. Apparently, the hardware hasn't been performing as well, financially, as needed, and so the latest word is that Microsoft is trying to buy the Nook experience and allow B&N to exit the hardware market.

As a Nook user, I find this very sad. I've own one of the original Nooks, that had the little mini-touchscreens below the main e-Ink screen, and it's been a great device for the years I've owned it. When I got my iPad I specifically continued buying books in Nook format because I wanted to continue to support a bookstore that I really like going to. However, it looks like all of that might be coming to an end.

From Microsoft's perspective the deal is a big win for them, if it goes through. They get a huge headstart on their eBook ecosystem for their continuing mobile…

Some time with Windows 8

My fiancé recently got a new laptop, a nice small ASUS with a touch screen and Windows 8 pre-installed. This gave me a chance to actually play with it for more than a couple of minutes and really start to figure it out. I'll admit that my initial impression has not been positive about Windows 8, and although getting to spend more time with it has tempered that quite a bit, I still feel like there are some major issues overall.

First, I think the reason that my experience was more positive this time is that I got to use Windows 8 on a machine that has the intended hardware. Namely, a touchscreen and a touchpad that is set up to deal with all the different gestures that Windows 8 likes you to use when you're in non-desktop mode. Being able to switch between apps with a long flick of the finger across the touchpad or touchscreen is actually quite nice and simple, and I like the metaphor that it's trying to do. Similarly, being able to touch your selections on the screen feels…

Not wearing the ruby slippers...

This past week the tech world has been a-buzz about the new Facebook Home experience. For weeks we've been getting the pre-announcement rumblings... is Facebook launching a new app? A new phone? A bio-implant chip that records every thought you have as a new status update? Well, we finally got the answer, and thankfully they've decided not to enter the cybernetic implant realm... at least not yet.

Facebook's new experience is a set of apps for Android phones that transforms your UI into a fully Facebook experience. Your lock screen and home screen get transformed into slick versions of your Facebook news page, combined with your phone's email and messaging. Your messaging gets merged together with Facebook Messenger so that you can ping people on Facebook or SMS through the same app. And, photos from your feed become background images on your home and lock screens, so you can always see the latest drunken stupor your friends are in, without having to log into an app.

Wither RSS

Sure enough, just a month or so after I posted my thoughts on RSS, Google goes and decides to decommission Google Reader, forcing me to find an alternative. However, I'm not quite ready to give up RSS yet, so after experimenting with Twitter and such. I've jumped shot over to Feedly. It's a good reader, a bit heavier than Google Reader was, but it gets the job done and stays out of the way for the most part.

I think the RSS still has a place in our media world today. Or even if RSS as a standard needs to change, the basic paradigm of RSS should remain. The ability to have news articles queued up in a special area, so that you can come back to read them later, is a useful feature. If you step away from things like Twitter you run the risk of missing a great deal of headlines. Social sites like Facebook and G+ often try to "smartly" chose what to show you, which isn't useful either. So having the ability top scan all my headlines, pick which ones I want to read…

The Great Experiment

Recently, a tech journalist that I've followed for many years, and who is an Apple fanboy, posted a series talking about why he switched from an iPhone to an Android phone. It's a good read, and worth the time to see why he made the decision he did. Since I have a Verizon Galaxy Nexus sitting on my desk as a Wi-Fi device, I thought, "What the heck, let's give this a go for a week." So for the past week I've shelved my trusty iPhone 5 and have delved deep into the world of stock Android 4.1. So in the spirit of "copying is the sincerest form of flattery" here's my write-up of my experiences with Google's mobile OS.

First, I need to make one caveat. After using the Nexus for a week I have to say that I do NOT like this device. It constantly loses 4G signal, and the battery life almost makes it unusable. I could barely make it to lunch before I was at 20-30% battery. So in the spirit of fairness, if I truly wanted to switch full time to Android…

Reading Rainbow of RSS!

Back in the "old days", before these new fangled sites like Facebook and Google+, people maintained a social network of blogs. Everyone had their own site, and they would update them with pics, short updates, and yes, fully written blog entries with more than 140 characters. In order to not go crazy checking dozens of links every morning we all needed a way to get notified whenever someone posted something new. The most common tool for this was RSS. Using an RSS reader, you would subscribe to people's blogs, and then you only had to keep your reader tool running to get notifications when something new was posted. Plus, many news sites, both mainstream and tech focused, used RSS to publish their content to the world. I became an RSS junkie and have my Google Reader notifier installed on every device I can.

Things change though, and recently as I was perusing my Google Reader list I was reminded about how many sites publish their articles automatically to Twitter, Facebook…

CES 2013

This past week was a big week for the tech industry, with the holding of the Consumer Electronics Show 2013. Recent years have been a bit 'meh', but this year really had some interesting tech show up. In particular the theme seemed to be changes coming to our living room TV's.

Much of what we saw this year revolved around ways to get entertainment to our TV's with set top boxes that tie into other services, or all new TV technology like 4k (Ultra High Defenition). Personally, I'm less excited about UHD, since I just bought a new TV, and am quite happy with it. Plus, I don't think we have the internet bandwidth for UHD content yet.

The really cool advances are less technological for me, but structural. One of the things I love about internet delivered entertainment, is the ability to control what you watch a LOT more than the old days of flipping cable channels. I love the idea of discovering a new show, downloading an entire season and devouring it as quickly a…