Last week’s massive denial-of-service attack (and resulting Internet outage) was big news all on its own, but toss in AT&T’s latest digital land grab and you have a jam-packed few days of tech news. After the weekly discussion of the recent headlines, J.D. explores free or cheap word processors that cut down on toolbar clutter for minimal distraction when you’re probably already procrastinating that big writing deadline anyway. Come on along for this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam! (Also, El Kaiser gently suggests that you change all your default router and device passwords.)
Links to This Week’s News Stories
El Kaiser reviews Logitech’s $40 Bluetooth Audio Adapter. The device allows you to play audio from smartphone or tablet through your home stereo or powered speakers.
Of course he (not so) secretly pines for the $250 rBlink wireless DAC from Arcam which promises superior sound quality and rock solid Bluetooth pairing to mobile devices.
If you use Flicker and are looking to reorder your snapshots J.D. shares a Hopefully Helpful Hint that will show you how.
Lots of Google news this week as the Big G kicked off its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco by announcing a new version of Android. Google takes another swing at the living room with Android TV and releases a new software update to the Chromecast streaming dongle. Their recent acquisition Nest, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and buys security firm Dropcam. The search and advertising behemoth experiments with its own domain registration service.
In other news, Yahoo releases a replacement app launcher for Android. Dating sites get hit on hard by phishing scam; Cloud storage prices drop; both houses of Congress hold hearings about proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV; the Supreme Court rules against Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to view live and time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices, in th the Internet company’s battle with broadcast networks; and finally Google, the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others launch the “Made with Code” website.
This week I took a critical listen to two relatively high-end in ear monitors from Utah-based RBH Sound and England’s Bowers & Wilkins, both well known residential and commercial speaker manufacturers.
RBH Sound claims the EP1 earphones deliver “a wide sound stage free from outside noise and interruptions”. While I found the passive noise cancellation especially good once the earphones were properly inserted, the soundstage was far from expansive. The EP1s sport aluminum housings, a gold connector jack, and a not so tangle-free cloth cord. A sturdy protective carrying pouch with a cord clip, a set of Comply foam tips, and silicone cushions complete the package. The $149 dollar EP1s don’t feature a microphone or function controls but RBH Sound’s EP2 will offer those options — for $30 dollars more.
Just like their over-the-ear headphone cousins P3, P5 and P7, the C5 earphones from Bowers & Wilkins are sleek and stylish with a unique and modern design. They feature a proprietary cushioned loop that is designed to rest securely in the inner ridge of your ear instead of wrapping around the ear but I could never get a proper fit.
The C5s feature a tungsten design and a Micro Porous Filter, essentially hundreds of microscopic steel balls that act as a sonic diffuser to open up the sound and improve the listening experience. I found the tiny ball bearings did neither. The sound stage remained fairly closed but more open than that of the EP1s. The Bowers & Wilkins $179 dollar earphones have a microphone with basic function controls for music and calls, replacement silicone tips in various sizes (no foam cushions) and a small padded carrying case.
While both the RBH EP1 and the Bowers & Wilkins C5 earphones are well constructed, you can easily find better sounding (and cheaper) offerings from ThinkSound and Logitech UE.
Be sure to listen to episode 76 of Pop Tech Jam (‘The Desolation of El Kaiser’) for my full review.
This week J.D. helps us deal with holiday travel by sharing tips on making the experience a little easier and Pedro helps us stuff our stockings — and our ears — with a review of two new earphones from RBH Sound and Bowers & Wilkins. In the news Twitter changes its blocking policy but has an immediate change of heart; Facebook rolls out auto-play video ads; Samsung gets set to release its own Android gamepad; Apple announces its iTunes year-end Top Ten; The Museum of Science Fiction is set to open in 2017; and Flash Gordon could be headed for a serious big-screen remake.
I guess it was inevitable but it still came as a shock. Not long ago I realized that I spend significantly more time on my tablet devices than I do on laptops or PCs. In fact, there are some days I don’t use keyboard and mouse driven devices at all. My iPad has become my main content consumption device as well as a crucial part of my work arsenal. One problem though. Typing more than a sentence or two on a tablet becomes an exercise in frustration and don’t even get me started on taking quick notes on it. Not to sugarcoat it but the experience really and truly stinks.
I made it a point to find a decent iPad Bluetooth keyboard that was both portable and durable. The first keyboard and case I tried was the Koolertron Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Case for Apple iPad 2 and iPad (don’t call it) 3. What at first appeared to be brushed aluminum turns out to be cheap plastic. The keyboard feels flimsy and when the iPad is in the case it becomes top heavy and leans too far back. I expect it to snap right off the base one day. The one redeeming feature of the keyboard case is the 4000mAh power lithium battery. It can charge the iPad while you use the keyboard and it’s rated to last 55 hours although your mileage will vary.
As the name implies, the Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a Bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a case for the iPad 2 and the 3rd generation version of Apple’s tablet. A magnetic clip, similar to the one on Apple’s Smart Cover, keeps the aluminum-backed keyboard attached to the iPad. There are compromises with the keyboard, especially when it comes to the function keys, but overall Logitech’s unique cover delivers an excellent typing experience. Two deal-breaking issues (maybe two sides of the same issue) are that the Ultrathin Cover scratches very easily and it offers a total lack of compatibility with standard iPad covers that protect the back of the tablet from dents and scratches. To use the case you must leave your iPad naked as a jaybird.
If you’ve read this far I guess you really want to know what my go to iPad keyboard is. Well, turns out it’s an old familiar face:
Yup, the Apple wireless keyboard is my preferred iPad input device. It sports Bluetooth connectivity, is compact, rugged and looks good. If you can live without the iPad specific function keys available on the the Koolertron and the Logitech cases you’ll find the Apple keyboard is a real workhorse.
Click here to listen to Episode 04.