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iPad Mini (late 2012) [My Review]

The iPad Mini was released a little over a year ago and with a new and improved version with a Retina Display coming soon, I took the opportunity to purchase a refurbished unit. There are many refurbished units on Apple’s Clearance website that can be over 20% off original retail price. 

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If you don’t need a Retina Display, super fast processing, ultra-fast wifi capabilities, and additional LTE bands, the original iPad mini is a good deal - especially refurbished units. 

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As expected, Apple does a beautiful job repackaging the unit in a brand new box and shrink wrap ripe for the tearing!

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After owning an iPad 1, 2, and 3, I have gotten used to and became extremely tired of a large and heavy units. I only need an iPad on rare occasions and don’t want to become tired holding it while on my commute, on the couch, or in bed.

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Have you ever had a full size iPad fall out of your hands and  onto your face while lying down in bed or on the floor? Neither have I, but I hear it hurts! 

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The iPad mini is incredibly thin and light, has cameras perfect for video chat, decent audio quality and a good mic. It runs iOS 7 just fine (not as smooth as newer devices but it doesn’t freeze up) and has all-day battery life. One thing to note is that this version of the iPad comes with the iPhone charger while the larger iPads and the upcoming iPad Mini with Retina Display will come with the larger 10W charger due to larger battery capacities and higher power draw. 

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So is the iPad Mini for you or a loved one? If you’re looking to buy your first tablet or only need a tablet for light to medium duty work, this is perfect. If you’re a power user that plans on editing lots of photos, videos, read many books or spends hours looking at websites with a lot of text, this might not be the best tablet for you.

Almost all of my devices that I use on a regular basis now have a high-resolution “Retina” display and when I first used the iPad Mini, I immediately noticed  the older display with lower color saturation, brightness, and pixel density. However, after spending more time with the iPad Mini and the really well designed apps, those negative factors fade away into the background and I just enjoy consuming content and keeping in-touch with family and friends.

I’m sure many people will buy the iPad Mini with Retina Display and I would argue that is the real power tablet on the market and the better value when compared to it’s larger brother, the iPad Air. This is because almost all of the components are identical between the two tablets. The Mini is equipped with a display with even higher pixel density, a smaller footprint allowing users of all ages and hand sizes to easily hold it for extended periods of time, and when held with two hands the won’t ned to be split for typing. The iPad Mini with Retina display will be noticeably lighter than the iPad Air, which helps reduce fatigue when holding it for a long time as well as keeps suitcases, backpacks, and travel luggage lighter. 

Now I just need to figure out what color smart cover to buy…

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Filed under ipad mini

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Mophie Juice Pack Helium [My Review]

The iPhone 5 offers decent to good battery life by today’s smartphone standards, but what about those days when you need to use your phone a lot and you’re not near a powered USB port? 

Mophie has been making power packs for Apple products for many years and arguably, they make quality products (Apple sells Mophie products in their stores). For the iPhone 5, Mophie has released two juice packs - the Helium and the Air - that offer about 80% - 100% battery capacity of the iPhone 5.

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I’ve had a chance  to use both the Helium and the Air. A quick note about the Mophie Juice Pack Air: I liked the build quality and it doesn’t add any noticeable thickness or weight above and beyond the Helium, but the pass through buttons for the volume, vibrate rocker, and power button were tough to operate and offered very little feedback. With those issues, I decided to return the Air and keep the Helium. 

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So how is the Helium? It’s also well built like the Air, but it leaves parts of your phone (power and volume buttons, and vibrate rocker) exposed to dust/debris. Some users have noted that it is more difficult to find and press the exposed buttons as they are recessed in the case, but I find this to be a good quality of the case to prevent accidental key presses. If you have “fat fingers” this might not be a great case for you. You will also notice that the Helium does indeed have a smaller capacity battery than the Air. I Helium runs out of juice approximately 1.5 - 2 hours before the Air. As a case for a phone, the Helium is feels great with soft touch hard plastic. It provides a good amount of traction in your hand and on various surfaces but can still slip in and out of pockets and purses with relative ease. 

Despite the Helium’s build quality and reliability, the fact that it requires a Micro USB connection for charging is a mixed blessing. I would have preferred that they stuck the Lightning connector because the Micro USB connection has traditionally been the weak point of most Juice Packs (Mophie included). These ports easily break after repeated use, and even brand new out of the box, the Micro USB cable could easily plug in and out of both my Air and Helium. That’s usually not good news for longevity. One last point I want to make about the Micro USB connection on this generation of Juice Packs - they do not allow you to sync your iPhone with your computer when connected. You must use WiFi sync or remove the bottom of the Juice Pack and connect your standard Lightning cable to sync, update, restore your iPhone. 

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So, should you buy it? 

Yes if you are are power user who is unable to plug your phone into a power source throughout your day. Essentially, if your iPhone dies before you are ready for it to quit, you could benefit from buying a Juice Pack. Just know that your phone will be heavier and thicker, as well as taller. 

Personally, I am keeping the Helium for my day trips where I will be frequently using the camera and GPS. If you follow the instructions from Mophie about when to turn off and on the Juice Pack, you will notice a slight bump in battery life compared to just leaving the Juice Pack on all the time. 

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The Retina MacBook Pro 15” [My Review]

I have spent a week with the 15” base model Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display, and I have to say I am impressed. Two things users will notice immediately upon using this laptop are how crisp and clear text and images appear on the display and how good the speakers sound on such a thin laptop. 

As an owner of an iPad and iPhone with Retina displays, I always found myself upset when I using my phone and laptop at the same time. I immediately notice all of the pixels on the screen of my old laptop display (1280x800) and on my external 22” IPS 1080p monitor. Yes, I know…”first world problems”, but having all Retina display products can have a positive impact on user experience. Apple has done a phenomenal job at reducing the glare of the display as compared with most laptops with glossy or glass displays (including their own regular MacBook Pro and MacBook Air). This really makes a difference when working in a well lit environment or outside. The viewing angles and brightness of the display are also superior to any display I have seen available to regular consumers. 

This laptop absolutely flies: the quad-core Intel i7 processor means business, the 8GB of ram really helps during multi-tasking, photoshop and running virtual machines, and the built in SSD is no slouch! I frequently run Windows 7 Ultimate using Virtual Box and the experience is often faster than most mid-range Windows PCs sold today. 

Build quality is on par with current generation MacBook Pros, which is a good thing. On CNET’s “Always-On” YouTube channel, you can find torture tests of the 13” version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display - the results of the test were quite impressive. One other design feature of the that impressed me are the two fans built into the system which feature blades that have been asymmetrically molded, reducing fan noise. I really don’t hear the fans till they go above 3500rpm, which rarely happens even when streaming full HD videos and running a Virtual Machine.

As with all products (yes, even Apple products), there are weak points and this laptop has a few that need to be called out. Apple has done a poor job of addressing screen ghosting and fan issues - neither of which I have experienced during the writing of this review. I have experienced major stuttering with YouTube videos played in all popular browsers (Chrome, FireFox, and Safari) when the system is under stress. I’m not sure what causes this, but I would not expect such a problem to happen with such a powerful system. I hope this will be resolved with a future software update for the OS X or the browsers. 

In conclusion, the 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display is a solid laptop for someone looking for a laptop with a gorgeous display, powerful processor and graphics card, and has high spending limit. This laptop is not for someone looking for a laptop with a small footprint, but it is worth noting that this laptop weighs less than the current regular 13” MacBook Pro and is significantly thinner. Apple is expected to update their laptops later this year (likely in Q3) with brand new chips from Intel and they may come out with a redesigned chasis too, so if you can stand to wait a few more months, it should be worthwhile. For the time being, I am very satisfied with this laptop and look forward to what Apple will release later this year. 

Filed under Apple retina display macbook pro

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18 Point Contract for an iPhone

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A mother bought her 13 year old son an iPhone 5 for Christmas this year. But he couldn’t open it until he signed this contract:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas!  You are now the proud owner of an iPhone.  Hot Damn!  You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift.  But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations.  Please read through the following contract.  I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it.  Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone.  I bought it.  I pay for it.  I am loaning it to you.  Aren’t I the greatest?

2.  I will always know the password.

3.   If it rings, answer it.  It is a phone.  Say hello, use your manners.  Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”.  Not ever.

4.  Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.  It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am.  If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text.  Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5.  It does not go to school with you.  Have a conversation with the people you text in person.  It’s a life skill.  *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6.  If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs.  Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money.  It will happen, you should be prepared.

7.  Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being.  Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others.  Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

8.  Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9.  Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room.  Censor yourself.

10.  No porn.  Search the web for information you would openly share with me.  If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.

11.  Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public.  Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being.  You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12.  Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts.  Don’t laugh.  Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence.  It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life.  It is always a bad idea.  Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.  And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.

13.  Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos.  There is no need to document everything.  Live your experiences.  They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14.  Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.

15.  Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff.  Your generation has access to music like never before in history.  Take advantage of that gift.  Expand your horizons.

16.  Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17.  Keep your eyes up.  See the world happening around you.  Stare out a window.  Listen to the birds.  Take a walk.  Talk to a stranger.  Wonder without googling.

18.  You will mess up.  I will take away your phone.  We will sit down and talk about it.  We will start over again.  You & I, we are always learning.  I am on your team.  We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms.  Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life.  You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world.  It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get.  Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.  I love you.  I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.  Merry Christmas!

xoxoxo

Mom

As phones become more and more powerful, I do believe parents need to set guidelines for safe and responsible usage. Furthermore, I also believe that parent’s, now more than ever, need to foster their children’s skills for face to face interactions - so many interactions are remote these days. 

Although you may not agree with every point this mother has listed for her child to agree to, we must recognize that each parent-child relationship and family values are different.

Filed under iPhone Contract Parenting

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RunKeeper 3.0

RunKeeper is one of my favorite apps to use on a smartphone to track my workouts. I’ve tried various other apps such as Endomondo, but always return to RunKeeper because of the overall better user experience. 

Version 3.0 of RunKeeper for iOS was released today and my initial impressions are that it’s much more aesthetically pleasing. I believe the developers have changed the code and made GPS tracking more accurate and hopefully a bit more power efficient. 

Over the past few years, RunKeeper has introduced many new features such as coaching and social integration, but they’ve realized that the user interface and user experience are key to making their users (such as myself) happy. For those of you looking to keep track of your cardio workouts - GPS or manual entry are allowed - RunKeeper is worth testing out. 2013 is just around the corner and I know plenty of you are resolutions to get into shape this year…this might help you keep your resolution for more than just 1 week. 

Filed under RunKeeper

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Cisco to sell off Linksys

Cisco is just not happy with the way things are going in the consumer router sector. Cisco has been known to buy brands and then shut them down or sell them off…I think they’re simply tired of the unpredictable consumer market and would just like to stick to business sales. 

Filed under Cisco Linksys

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A Decline in Text Messaging

It comes as no surprise that text message numbers have dropped recently. iMessage, BBM, WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Skype, and countless other messaging apps have become increasingly popular in the recent months and years. With everyone paying a premium for data, users are likely to cut back on text messaging plans (which carriers profit nearly 100% from) by using data based services.  

Filed under Text Messaging

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iPad 4th Generation Review

It’s been about 7 month’s since the “new iPad” was released and now we have a new “new iPad” (4th generation). It’s actually much improved over the previous generation iPad and for owners of the original and iPad 2, this is the upgrade you’ve been waiting for. Just know that it comes with the lightning connector so if you have invested a lot of money in accessories with the old 30 pin connector, think twice before buying one. 

Filed under iPad 4 Apple