Tag Archives: laptops

PTJ 224: Uncloudy Skies

Mobile World Congress brought in the new and the old this week, Twitter and Facebook are stepping it up to help users in need and Amazon Web Services had a sad day this week. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — and YouTube’s big week of views and cord-cutting measures — on this week’s weatherproof episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 216: So Long, 2016!

After a tumultuous 12 months in tech, culture and politics, this annus horribilis (as many found it) is finally on the way out the door. On this last episode of the year, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the week’s tech news before exploring the highlights, lowlights and other notable events of 2016. Thanks for listening this year, Jammers, and we’ll be back in 2017!

Links to This Week’s Stories

PTJ 161 News: Life on Mars

5XGoogle’s turn! Yes, it’s Google’s turn for the big fall product announcement event, which the company held this Tuesday in San Francisco. Among the revelations, the LG Nexus 5X (top) and the Huawei Nexus 6P (bottom). Both are in Google’s Nexus line and available for online pre-order in in the Google Store.  6PYou have to buy the phones from Google and then pick a carrier plan, but the new handsets also work with Google’s Project Fi, a wireless experience made up of Wi-Fi networks and partner 4G LTE carriers.

The Nexus name didn’t continue onto tablets, however, as Google also announced its new Pixel C device, which looks like a tablet with an optional and magnetically attachable keyboard. The 10.2-inch Google-designed gadget (shown below) has already been compared to Microsoft’s Surface tablet.

pixelc

ChromecastGoogle also updated its $35 Chromcast dongle for streaming media this week. The new version of the regular Chromecast has been redesigned into a small, puck-like ChromecastAudioobject with a smaller connector to the back of the TV set that may fit a little better when you have a bunch of other stuff plugged it. As shown here at the top, you can get it in three different colors. If you don’t care about video and just want a way to stream the tunes on your mobile devices over Wi-Fi to a pair of big-ass speakers in the house, there’s the Chromecast Audio dongle (below). That one’s also $35 and available in basic black.

LG Electronics, which makes appliances, television sets and some very nice high-end Android smartphones, is bringing its laptop business here to the States. Like its smartphones, LG’s laptop line, called the Gram series, leans to the fancier end of the spectrum, with a MacBook-like Air look with Intel Core processors and HD displays. Prices range from about $900 to $1400.

Public Service Announcement: People, stop posting that status about Facebook charging money to keep your profile’s privacy settings! The copyright thing is bogus! It was a hoax three years ago and it’s still a hoax today! It does play on fears about privacy, though, which is a sensitive topic for many people. Microsoft published a post on its Windows blog this week that addressed privacy concerns some users have voiced with Windows 10.

vrkitObservers noticed the Microsoft offering its own variation of Google’s Cardboard viewer called the Microsoft VR Kit for its Lumia phones, at least for participants at a Russian hackathon.  In other reality-avoidance news, Re/Code is among those reporting that YouTube is getting ready to launch an ad-free subscription service next month that will also include access to its YouTube MusicKey streams.

Twitter is also moving away from and supplementing its original service model. Reports are circulating that the company is building a new product that would let users post content longer than 140 characters. Twitter itself is not commenting about that or the TV Timelines feature it’s been working on since March of this year. However, Twitter is seen to be making a bigger grab for more television show fans as the new fall season rolls out by adding shortcuts to its TV Timelines feature on TV-related tweets.

cardreaderOctober is here and along with heartier fall-themed beers, many retail merchants are finally upgrading their credit-card terminals to accept dips from cards with smart chips. Merchants who do not up their security by installing chip-reading credit card terminals could be liable for fraudulent transactions in their stores.

Big news from NASA earlier this week: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has new findings that provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water is flowing on Mars.

NASAAnd finally, Mars will be all up in the news this weekend as the new film, The Martian opens around the country. The movie stars Matt Damon and  is based on a best-selling novel originally self-published in 2011 by Andy Weir, a software engineer who used apps and diligence to get the science plausible and right within the story. Ridley Scott directed the picture and worked with NASA consultants to make the visuals technically accurate, and the agency highlights nine real and developing NASA technologies used in the film. (Since NASA has been such a big booster of the film, Yahoo News is among those wondering if the agency even timed Monday’s Mars announcement just ahead of the film’s release on Friday.) But perhaps even more exciting than water on Mars, however, is that Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara are in the film as well — and they get to play actual astronauts instead of astronauts’ wives.
Now that’s progress.

martiancast

 

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Mighty Savin’ Power Rangers

Don’t you hate it when you’re frantically working away on battery power, watching that little icon drain with no electrical outlet in sight? It can be a nerd nightmare but thankfully, most major operating systems have a battery-saver utility — or at least some settings tweaks — to help you squeeze out a few precious minutes of juice until you can recharge. Here’s how.

Mobile devices
batterysaver
The Battery Saver mode in Android 5.0 (Lollipop) is supposed to add an additional 90 minutes of device life by temporarily putting a stop to mail and message syncing, vibrating alerts and other power-draining activities. To turn it on, open the Settings icon from the apps screen, select Battery and then tap the three-dot icon in the upper-right corner to get to Battery Saver in the menu. (You can also swipe down on the home screen to get the Quick Settings box and then jump to Battery preferences from there.) Once in the Settings, you can turn Battery Saver on or off manually, or have it automatically kick in when the battery is down to 5 or 15 percent of its power. You can find third-party apps that claim to boost your battery, but some Android phone-makers have their own tools — Samsung, LG and HTC are among them. Tech sites like AndroidPit usually offer advice for saving energy, too — like using dark wallpaper on your gadget.

Got a Lumia? Microsoft has its own Battery Saver mode for its Windows Phones you can use to achieve similar savings.

As announced a few weeks ago, Apple is adding a new Low Power Mode feature in iOS 9. Until then, the company has a page of tips for prolonging your battery’s charge, and a bunch of apps in the App Store to help you monitor and manage your power consumption.

Laptops
Like other versions before it, Windows 8.1 lets you set up an alternate power plan that automatically dims the screen and tweaks other settings to save battery life when you’re not plugged into power.

Likewise, Apple has a page of tips for OS X Yosemite and its own power plans for laptops. Apple’s site suggests several ways to adjust your Mac’s Energy Saver preferences (shown here) to get a dimmer display, automatic graphics switching and other tweaks that take less of a hit on your MacBook battery.

energysaver

If you’re a Linux user, you probably have similar settings in whatever distribution you use. Ubuntu’s community documentation has suggestions and the third-party TLP power management tool works with Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

When used in time, some of these little tricks can save you a few minutes of juice here and there. If you find your battery is always edging into the red, consider a replacement or even an external power source to keep you going until that next electrical outlet appears like an oasis in the desert.

PTJ 104: Internet Security? No Such Thing.

This week cybercriminals made off with billions of usernames and passwords from hundreds of thousands of websites around the world and El Kaiser was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset about it.  Sensing Pedro’s imminent panic attack, J.D. cheers him up with a segment on how to buy a new gadget at its peak of freshness.

In other news,  the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; The Shaknado sequel is a hit on TV and on social media networks;  it is once again legal to unlock your mobile phones; the Department of Transportation considers banning cellphone voice calls on commercial flights; Google helps law enforcement apprehend a pedophile; researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology develop an algorithm that constructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations; and concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department after the social media behemoth suffers a short outage.

No, we are not kidding.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Shop Class

Back-to-school shopping is in full swing for many people, and you’d think this would be the time when all the new computers and gadgets are rolling out. Sure, Microsoft released new Surface Pro tablets a few months ago and Apple just did a minor refresh on its MacBook Pro laptops, but the big new releases typically arrive in stores just before the winter holidays. Now, just how soon before the holidays can vary, but here are some tips to keep in mind as you get ready for your next shopportunity.

  • PC makers are all over the map in terms of release, but many companies put out new desktop and laptop models around Windows upgrades. This is an off-year for that habit, though, as Windows 9 isn’t really expected until 2015. So take a look back  to when your preferred manufacturer last released new models. The companies need to keep people buying product and most won’t go more than a year without some sort of update to the line. If you don’t remember when the last round of new stuff came out, check the media area of your preferred PC manufacturer’s website and look up the old press releases — the dates should be right there. Microsoft’s site also highlights certain new models of interest throughout the year.

shopwindows

  • Hot new Android phone and tablet hardware also tends to arrive on the heels of a major OS update. Android L, the next version, was previewed at the I/O conference in June and is expected later this year. (Last year’s KitKat and Nexus 5 phone landed as Halloween treats, remember?) Android-focused blogs and gadgets sites often get wind of pending releases, so bookmark AndroidCentral.com, 9to5Google.com or a similar source to keep you on top of events concerning the little green robot.
  • Apple rumor sites have practically become a cottage industry for news about the iEmpire, and often tip off the world to coming-release timeframes. For that kind of info, iLounge, 9to5Mac, AppleInsider, Re/Code and BoyGeniusReport are among the many watchdog sites worth watching themselves. These sites are also on top of new operating system updates for iOS and OS X, if you merely want to upgrade the software on your current, perfectly fine hardware.
  • When it comes to buying your new Apple hardware at that perfect time – meaning not two days before Apple goes and releases all-new models — there’s one site in particular worth looking at: The Buyer’s Guide over at MacRumors.com. The guide has been around for years and keeps close tabs on when Apple releases new iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and Macs. The information is detailed very nicely on the site so you can see how long it’s been since a version of the product was released, and plan your shopping trip accordingly.

shopmac

With  Apple, pattern recognition can pay off. After releasing the first three versions of the iPad in the spring, the company has shifted its new iOS gear to the fall months as of 2012 – lately, it’s been iPhones in September and iPads in October, with any new iPods, iTunes updates, Apple TVs and random laptops mixed in as well.

If you don’t care that your hardware is a generation out of date, Back to School time can be a gold mine, as some wireless carriers will bundle older models with new purchases in an attempt to clear shelf space. For example, Sprint is currently selling 16-gig iPad Mini tablets for $50 when you purchase an iPhone 5s or 5c. If you don’t need the latest and greatest, look around now.

If you can’t help yourself and buy something — only to be in geek tears when a new model comes out the next week —keep in mind that most places give you at least 14 days from your purchase date to return an item. The Apple Store, Best Buy, and Amazon all have their return policies posted, as do other companies, so check it out. Then enjoy your new hardware and rest assured that you probably have at least six weeks before all the rumors start up about next year’s model.

PTJ 75: The Scintillating 75th Episode

With the pain of losing Google Reader still fresh and Feedly a disappointment after repeated missteps, El Kaiser looks at RSS feed aggregators. J.D. breaks down the differences between Ultrabooks and notebooks and helps us make the right choice between the two laptop flavors. In the news, a campaign encouraging kids to try computer coding; several technology companies issue a joint statement calling for restrictions on US government spying; Microsoft helps users know when and where their accounts have been used; Google continues to add apps to its Chromecast TV streamer; and predicting weather patterns for Middle Earth.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Choosing Ultrabook or Laptop

ultronTablets may have taken a huge bite out of the laptop market, but some people still need a good old-fashioned portable computer with a decent-sized screen, a full keyboard, the ability to run a standard operating system and plenty of storage room. Fortunately, you still have plenty of models to choose from.

Traditional laptops, once tipping the scales at seven or eight pounds of shoulder-separating weight, are now much sleeker than before. The tiny, cramped netbooks (circa 2009) have given way to bigger netbooks/ultrabooks, with screens and keyboards at a more usable size. Heavy has gotten lighter and smaller has gotten bigger. So what’s the difference now between an ultrabook and a regular laptop — and which one do you need?

A few bullet points:

Ultrabook

  • These slimmed-down computers are usually lighter in weight than regular laptops.
  • They’re meant to be online with plenty of access to cloud storage, so ultrabooks often use solid-state hard drives. These are fast and sturdy — but have less capacity than a standard hard drive for the same price.
  • Ultrabooks typically have longer battery life between charges, thanks to fewer moving parts and energy-efficient mobile processors.
  • Depending on the model you get, ultrabooks can be somewhat cheaper than a full laptop.

Notebook

  • A standard laptop typically offers more storage space than an ultrabook, thanks to a wider use of mechanical hard drives and more configuration options.
  • Many laptops still offer a built-in optical drive for CDs and DVDs.
  • Notebooks are usually more upgradeable for memory, replacement batteries, and so on.
  • If you’re into serious gaming, you can find plenty of notebooks with high-end graphics cards and processors.

As with any device purchase, if you’re shopping around, make a list of all the stuff you need to do, want to do and where you want to do it. Then compare the available models out there until you find a machine that meets your needs.

Some things to consider as you peruse product pages or wander the aisles at Best Buy:

  • If you want to do hardcore gaming or a lot of video editing, perhaps something more robust than an ultrabook is in order here.
  • Sure, solid-state hard drives start up super fast, pop open your applications in a flash and often survive drops better than mechanical hard drives, but they can be expensive and not exactly swimming in space.
  • If you travel a lot, need maximum battery life and already have a sturdy desktop or laptop at home, maybe the lightweight ultrabook is what you need.
  • Sometimes, you can compromise with add-ons. If you really want an ultrabook but still want to rip CDs for your music library, you can buy an external optical drive for less than $80. Got a small solid-state drive? An inexpensive USB external can add a few terabytes.
  • Batteries: Does the computer have a sealed battery or can you easily swap it out yourself with a replacement?
  • Does the computer only do WiFi, or do you have Ethernet, 3G or 4G connectivity options?

Now, all you need is a great pre- or post-holiday sale. A gift card would be totally great, too.