Archive for 'Reviews'
Switching one’s computing ways takes a bit of determination and willpower. Many habits that you didn’t even know you had need to be broken. Like a great Zen Master said, “I can’t teach you if your cup is already full.” You have to WANT to do it. The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook offers more than enough reasons to go cloud. All of the great features of the Cr-48 are there: the ultra-fast boot-time, the portability, the streamlined interface. It’s all there and with the benefits of a dual-core Atom processor.
Here are more of my impressions:
I loved the keyboard on my Cr-48 and Samsung has improved upon it noticeably. The tactile feedback is snappier. I wish every keyboard felt like this. I just want to keep typing and typing on it. Now implementing keyboard shortcuts doesn’t require the dexterity of a yoga master. Let’s compare keyboards shall we? We have the Samsung Series 5 and we have the Macbook.
Love golf but afraid of those harsh UV rays? Well I’ve got the game for you. And, you can play it right in your browser! The game is WGT Golf which comes in two versions: WGT Golf Challenge and WGT Golf Game.
Don’t know much about golf? The game is designed that you may learn a little about the sport of golf as you play. For example, don’t know what club to pick for a particular shot? You can drag your mouse over the choice of clubs and it tells you in what cases that particular club is used. The one that you will likely want to use is chosen for you.
The basics of the WGT golf game: You are given the amount of yards a particular club will give you and you are given the distance between you and the hole. There is also a tee where you can control the spin of the ball, once the ball lands. (I learned the hard way that you don’t want to shoot for the exact distance between you and the hole, because, well, the ball keeps on going. I think it’s physics or something.) There are a number of other factors such as wind and terrain you need to consider as well. From this, you guess how much power you want to put behind that swing, then you let her rip.
This may sound simple, but it’s not. Take it from me. I became quite familiar with the bunker, the water and the rough. It takes practice, but it’s fun. You can also replay your shots, which can be the source of much comedy.
Both versions of WGT Golf are free to play, but have some differences.
WGT Golf Challenge: This is the game to see if virtual golf is for you. No account is needed to play. It Includes virtual golf video tutorials and explaining the different skills and strategies needed to develop your game.
WGT Golf Game: This version requires you to sign up for an account. You can either make a new one or use Facebook Connect. With a free account, WGT Golf Game bestows upon you a whole world of virtual golf. In this game, you play on virtual recreations of famous golf courses like Bethpage, Kiawah Island and St Andrews. HD photography and patented technology was used into making these virtual courses, and they are quite fantastic to behold. You can also buy virtual golf equipment is available from WGT sponsors.
WGT Golf Game also has a social element so you can play golf in this huge immersive virtual environment with your friends and participate in tournaments with people all around the globe.
Try this game out, and let us know in the comments what you think!
Ah, music. The wine of life. Yet managing music libraries can be a pain. The way it worked out for me was I had the bulk of it on my computer, and put the rest of it on my smart-phone, due to limited space, of course. Syncing music between devices can be, well, cumbersome. There are the wires and there is the deciding of what music to sync on which device. Music is ephemeral too: what you loaded in your device may not be now may not be what you’ll want to listen to in an hour or two.
Those inconveniences prevented me from really enjoying the music I had.
I got my Google Music Beta invite and was excited to give it a try, and all of the above mentioned problems were solved.
I uploaded my library which over the years has amounted to over 30 GBs, which had gone untouched for the most part for several months. I know there have been complaints about how arduous the process of uploading your music is, but come on people; it isn’t like you have to stand over your computer during the whole upload.
Previous to this welcomed Google Music invite, I’ve been using MOG, which is a great service. The one thing I didn’t know I missed when I was listening to MOG was access to MY library with all those songs, audio books, etc. which I forgot I had. With MOG, there is the sense of being thrown in to an ocean of listening possibilities. All I had for guidance was a vague memory of the music I liked. I don’t know about you, but my memory is isn’t good enough to hold a database of 30 gigs of music. With Google Music, I saw my music library, with all the familiar album covers, slowly but surely being uploaded and appearing in my cloud-based library, and felt I was being reacquainted with an old friend.
Alrighty, ladies and gents. Let me paint you a picture. You’re an avid fan of Google, who just so happens to be in the market for a new notebook PC. Like any good fan would, you decide “Hey, I’ll watch the Google I/O developer’s conference, see what they’ve got in store for folks like me.” That’s when you first laid eyes on the Chromebook. Jackpot. You hang on every word, absorbing information on the Chromebook like a sponge. You mark June 15 on your calendar, and every day leading to- like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s then that you realize, hey, you’ve got a bit of a problem. See, Google’s releasing two Chromebooks: One manufactured by Acer, the other by Samsung. And you’ve got no idea which one to choose.
I might be able to help with that. Let’s have a look at which of the Chromebooks gives you the most bang for your buck, shall we?
Comparison One: The Look
How does each model look? What’s good about it? What’s bad? What’s just downright ugly? Here, I’m going to be looking at the aesthetic appeal of the two species of Chromebook.
The Acer Chromebook
Acer’s Chromebook looks pretty vanilla to me. Granted, it’s super thin as notebooks go and pretty reasonably weighted (at 2.95 pounds) but there’s really nothing to distinguish the appearance of Acer’s cloud notebook from every other laptop out there. Now, while the laptop itself might be something of an ugly duckling (to me, at least); at 11.6 inches, Acer’s 16:9 Cinecrystal 1366×768 HD screen most assuredly is not. Then again, the fact that it’s smaller and lighter than the Series 5 does work in its favor.
The Samsung Series 5
If I were to render my final verdict on the systems based solely on their physical appeal, Samsung’s the clear winner. Its sleek, glossy chassis is available in either white or black, and has the Chrome logo subtly emblazoned on the bottom left corner of the back. Of course, the physical appeal does come at a bit of a price- Samsung’s 16:10 12.1 inch WGXA LED screen operates at a max resolution of 1280×800, slightly lower than the Acer Chromebook. Still, the fact that it’s larger works in its favor. It’s also a bit bulkier than the Acer Chromebook, weighing in at 3.3 pounds.
Winner: I’m going to give the Series 5 a slight edge here. The Acer Chromebook’s display does seem a bit better, but not enough to make up for the much higher aesthetic appeal of the Series 5.
Comparison Two: The Specs
In the previous section, our two contenders just sat around and looked pretty. See, trouble is, most of us were taught as kids that judging a book by its cover is bad and mean and downright wrong. So, let’s see what’s under the hood. Let’s have a look at what each of these systems can do.
The Acer has the following specs:
- 11.6-inch 1,366×768-pixel 16:9 screen
- Intel Atom N570 dual-core 1.66GHz CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB SSD drive
- 1.3 MP HD Webcam
- Two USB 2.0 Ports
- HDMI Port
- 8 hours of battery life
- 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- 3G Optional
- HD Audio Support
- Stereo Speakers
- 2.95 pounds
The Series 5, on the other hand, boasts the following:
- 12.1-inch, 1,200×800 pixel 16:10
- Intel Atom N570 dual-core 1.66GHz CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB SSD drive
- 1 MP HD Webcam
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- VGA Port
- 8.5 hours of battery life
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
- 3G optional
- SD/SDHC/MMC/SDXC card slot
- Stereo speakers
- 3.3 lbs.
This one’s tricky. While the two systems are virtually identical hardware wise, each one has a few clear advantages over the other. In addition to having a superior screen, the Acer also has HDMI support- something which is curiously lacking on the Series 5, in favor of the rather archaic VGA analog format. The Samsung does have its benefits, though- the SD slot is pretty nifty, and gives the Series 5 a bit more space for offline file storage, as well as allowing you to upload pictures from your camera. Then again, the USB ports work just fine for that, and given that both systems are designed to operate on the cloud…yeah. You get the idea.
Oh, and the Samsung has a bit more battery life than the Acer.
Winner: I’m gonna have to give the edge to the Acer here. Though the Samsung’s got a slightly better battery, the decision to support VGA over HDMI doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. And while the inclusion of an SD slot is nice, it seems a bit pointless. As for battery life…a half hour really isn’t that much of a difference.
Comparison Three: The Price
This is a pretty simple one: The Acer is a lot cheaper. Without 3G, you can hook yourself up with an Acer Chromebook for $349.00, while the Samsung S5 runs for $429.00. Basically, you’re paying about eighty dollars extra for a memory slot and an extra half hour of battery life. Is that really worth it? Not if you ask me, it isn’t.
Winner: The Acer Chromebook wins this one, hands down.
So, Which Ons is the Better Buy?
The Acer Chromebook is the clear winner here. It’s cheaper, it’s smaller, it has a better screen, and it has virtually the same specifications as the Samsung Series 5. And have I mentioned the HDMI support? The Samsung Series 5 might look a bit prettier, but a slightly better looking chassis and a memory slot are simply not worth eighty dollars more. The fact that it has a lower quality screen and doesn’t support HDMI puzzles me, as well- you’d think the Acer Chromebook would be the one without HDMI support, given the lower price.
Anyway, there’s my two cents. Out of the two Chromebooks being released on June 15th, Acer’s the way to go.
Let’s say you want to go see a movie. Trouble is, you don’t know what movie to see. Or where to see it. Or when. And when you finally do decide on a movie, you still approach the theatre with your stomach knotted in apprehension, and you’re worrying yourself gray that this ‘blockbuster’ will turn out to be a ‘fauxbuster’ and you’ll waste a chunk of your income and several hours of your life on another crappy hollywood cash grab. I mean, sure, you could take a look at ten different review sites, and cross-reference what the critics are saying…but honestly, who has time for that nowadays? We’re busy people!
Okay, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic. But wouldn’t it be nice if, for convenience’s sake, someone would blend all of the movie review sites, theatre showtime pages and synopsis websites into one easy to use app? Well, I’ve got some good news for you. Flixster, a moviegoers app previously only available for smartphones, has recently launched on the Chrome Browser.
Flixster is wonderfully simple, and I love the app for that. There’s a bar along the top of the screen that includes a search function, and four entries: Box Office, Showtimes, Upcoming, and DVD. A sidebar along the left will changed based on which of these you click. Pretty self explanatory.
Anyway, if you choose “Box Office”, “Upcoming”, or “DVD”, you’ll be presented with a graphical list of movies. Each film has its own tiny information box, which includes the critic review score, lead actors’ names, parental rating and runtime. Click on the film’s entry to view a synopsis of the movie, photographs of and deeper information on the cast, see the audience score, view a trailer, view showtimes, and most importantly, read the reviews. You can also click on an actor’s name to view their filmography.
Flixster can be used to view a list of theatres in order to see what movies they’re airing and when, or to see places and times when one specific film is playing. In both cases, you’ll see a list of nearby theatres, their addresses, and the showtime of the film you’re looking up. In both cases, you can select a theatre to see more information on it, including a map, address, phone number, and whether or not online ticketing is available, as well as what other movies it’s showing. Flixster also includes the option to search for theatres near a particular zip or postal code, so you can use the app to look up movies for a friend.
The app runs rather seamlessly. I did notice a very small degree of lag when I was looking up showtimes, but that may have just as easily been my network connection as the app. Everything flows properly, looks good, and is designed for ease of use. A+ here.
I’m definitely going to keep using this app after reviewing it. It compiles information from all manner of review sites, including such well known venues as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Users can browse through the reviews to read exactly what the critics (and other moviegoers) said about a particular film and why. You can also search out a film by name as well.
Rather than having to cross reference several review websites and look at several different movie theatre listings, Flixster enables users to access everything with nothing more than a few clicks. It most definitely makes answering the question of “what movie to see?” way, way easier. Now, I might be sounding like a right lazy sot- and maybe I am, just a little- but apps like this are all about making things more efficient, aren’t they? If there’s a faster, more convenient way to get something done, why not use it?
In any case, convenience is one department where Flixster most assuredly delivers.
Final Score: 5/5
Flixster looks polished, runs well, and does a good job of compiling information from a number of different sources. The addition of the “DVD” tab is a pretty nice touch, but it doesn’t feel strictly necessary. I get the feeling this is more of a moviegoers app than anything else. Either way, if you’re having trouble deciding what film to see on a Friday night, give Flixster a whirl. It’ll help. And it’s free.
(Tested on Windows XP with Chrome 11.0.696.65)
A free app designed for the Google Chrome web browser, Beatlab is a deceptively simple app that allows users to create and share their own music. It features a leaderboard system, calculated based on user votes. The voting system presents the user with two songs at random, and they choose which of the two they like better. At the end of each week, the votes are tallied and the winners of each ‘beat battle’ are listed. In order to save songs, Beatlab must be linked to a Facebook account. Sounds pretty nifty so far, doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look.
Companies are racing to the cloud. Call it the Cloud Race. Microsoft is attempting to stake its claim in the cloud by taking advantage of its huge presence in our desktops with Office 365, currently in Beta, and open to test.
Chances are you are already familiar with Microsoft’s offerings from Windows to its Office suite and use them on a day to day basis. There is not much difference between Office 365 and its Windows Office counterpart. It also offers seamless integration between local files and cloud storage. This is very likely to make the small businesses who are a bit resistant to the cloud computing trend feel more at ease moving to the cloud. You can say that Office 365 is for those who need a bit of weaning from the desktop into the cloud.
All the features you’d expect from cloud computing are there: email and calendar integration, access to your documents from anywhere, ability to corroborate on your documents with your co-workers and hold online meetings, even Exchange integration. Email includes 25 GBs of storage per user, which should be plenty. Office 365 is offering everything you need to access your work from anywhere. Microsoft even guarantees 99.9% uptime.
“Not bad”, you might say. “I know Microsoft products. I use them every day along with everyone else in my office. Sign me up!”
Yet there is one other detail that I still need to mention: that familiarity is going to cost you. While Google Apps costs $50 per user for a year, Office 365’s plans range from $2 a month, which covers only email, to $24 a month for the “complete solution” per user. That’s right: $24 a MONTH per user. That strikes me as a bit steep especially considering Google offers Cloud Connect which integrates Microsoft Office with Google Docs (enabling you to edit your documents from anywhere) for FREE.
Maybe for some, this additional cost may be worth the Microsoft brand and give a level of comfort in the cloud. Not for me though. To me, it’s just the same old same old from Microsoft.
What do you think? Will Microsoft be successful in getting people to the cloud with Office 365?
Some time ago, Mozilla put out a release candidate for Firefox 4, and my first reaction was how close the new interface looked to that of Chrome. Since that time, Firefox 4 has officially launched, and I decided to take a closer look at the rival browser. What is it that makes Chrome and Firefox 4 different now that the latter looks so much like Google’s own browser?
Well, they aren’t completely the same. Firefox has different menus that are spread out across the browser. For example, it still has all of its old menus but they are now tucked in to a menu on the right that is called “Firefox”. The browser also still has one menu for URLs and one for a search box. When I installed the browser the default search engine was Bing. Compared to older versions of Firefox, this area certainly feels much more compact. Indeed, the size in height of these text boxes are smaller than Chrome’s Omnibox.
Months ago, there was an extension that came out for Chrome I had heard was able to take speech input in the browser. It’s called Voice Search which is still available in the Chrome Web Store, yet I didn’t post anything about it because I could not get it to work for whatever reason. It seems to work now, and is set up for a set of sites in a drop down window in your browser.
Now that Google is showing off its speech input API, which really doesn’t have any applied use yet, another developer has released a speech input extension that you can use anywhere. And this one works without the drop down. It’s called Speechify, and it sets up a little microphone in text boxes. Click on the icon, and you can tell it whatever you wish – typing it out for you.
While developers may find interesting ways to use the speech input API in the future by implementing it right into web pages, this extension just brings the speech capability right to any text box. I could see uses for the API that don’t require an extension and doesn’t require you to be prompted by it with a click, which would be pretty cool.
Unless you were caught talking to your laptop at local the coffee shop…
I will admit that I was tempted to dismiss the Jolicloud App of simply jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon. But you know what? I’ve reconsidered. While I feel ambivalence to certain features, Jolicloud’s “App Store” really shows some possibility. And yes, it really does appear to have a ton of users in the Chrome Web Store.
Jolicloud’s interface is very similar to Chrome, almost to the point of redundancy. Like Chrome, Jolicloud presents your web apps as icons lined up in rows across the screen. To access your apps, you simply click on them, and it will take you to the web page from which they are hosted. There is a search box on the top, a bit like Google’s Omnibox, but not as integrated into the web as Chrome.
The sharing aspect of the Jolicloud app doesn’t work for me. While I understand how powerful sharing things can be on the internet, it would be more helpful if Jolicloud users could share their favorite applications outside the Jolicloud user base so others — perhaps their Facebook friends or Twitter followers — could be exposed to more web based applications.
An essential component of the writing process is jotting down your ideas. I have two tools that help me do this: A moleskine journal, which I use to keep scribblings of random thoughts and ideas and Penzu, an online journal which I can access through any computer, preferably with my Cr-48 or my Android phone.
I use Penzu for everything from writing longer scribblings I’m compelled to put in the digital format to longer ramblings which I may or may not share with the world later on. My moleskin scribblings frequently become seeds for my Penzu entries that usually run over 500 words per entry, which is the quota I try to keep.
You may be thinking: couldn’t you use just any blog platform for that?
Editor’s Note: Julian West is a new contributing writer for the site. You can read his first post about Google Search as the ultimate web application here.
Is your family complaining that your comic book collection is taking up too much space in your basement bedroom? Would you actually start reading that collection if it wasn’t for the fear of some misfortune that would result in a dreaded crease or some grease smear? Scared to loan your comic to a buddy of yours for fear he just won’t handle it with the love and tenderness your comics deserve, resulting in some unspoken tension?
Then I have the webapp for you: The Marvel Comics app from the Chrome Web Store.
The comfort and ease of ebook reading has arrived for comic book geeks. People with an unending fascination for grown people in spandex should rejoice!
Marvel Digital Comics offers comics for sale at $2.00 an issue. Not a bad deal. It’s cheaper than a paper copy and you don’t have to worry about dirtying the awesome art on the pages as you read.