Saturday, 4 May 2013

Waze - Amazing GPS Smartphone Navigation

Basic Waze directions
Do you have a smartphone, with data, and fall under the following categories, while driving; get lost frequently, have a bad sense of direction, hate being stuck in traffic, want to be aware of pulled over cars and police officers? Well, you are in luck! After thoroughly testing this app, I bring to you a great review.

Waze is an application for your Android, Apple and, some, Blackberry devices. It is also 100 per cent free! This amazing app took me from my house to my girlfriend's place with no hassle. I was warned one time for a police officer, three times for pulled over vehicles and it re-routed me away from rush-hour traffic when possible. It made me feel confident about being on the Q.E.W. and where I was going.

It works because of you. No, there is no joke, here. It works because people communicate through the app. Through an easy combination of 2-3 buttons, you can report debris on the road, pulled over vehicles, police vehicles (stopped, moving or hidden) and traffic delays. Waze is amazing because it also gives you spoken directions in distance and the street name. On top of all this, when i was in Toronto, a fellow Wazer messaged me asking for directions. How useful is that for all you shy people who don’t want to physically ask someone for directions? I guess you can say that Waze brings social media to a new level.

This app is growing around the country (Canada) and I cannot wait for you to be involved. It is easy to sign up; in fact, I used my Facebook account because I didn't want to go through any hassle.

Live map with Wazers and notifications
I understand this is a short blog post; however, you need to experience it for yourself. It will only benefit you. Here are some facts that I found while using Waze:

  1. Only used three megabytes of data for a one hour drive.
  2. It is easy to use and straight forward.
  3. There is a button that you can select to guide you back to your parked car.
  4. People are friendly and everyone helps each other.
  5. Automatic recalculate based on traffic experiences of other Wazers.

Now, go to your app store, download Waze and get started.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Home Media Streaming

Ever wonder how to put your downloaded videos onto a television without hooking up your computer? Or maybe you followed a previous blog post of mine, packed up your DVD collection and have everything stored onto an external hard drive or USB drive. This post is sparked by my Uncle Jim who is a great man...but not the best with computers. He asked me how to put Netflix on his television without hooking up his laptop and to answer his question; there are many ways of doing so. And here it is, the top two media streaming devices that you will find...the Apple TV and the Western Digital TV Live (WDTV).

With the Apple TV you are apple to put your mac screen directly on your television and do some amazing things. NHL actually has an app, followed by a subscription, in which you can watch almost any game on your TV through your internet connection and there is a Netflix app as well. The Apple TV has a library in which you can rent/stream movies from an online iTunes database. This makes it a lot easier and cheaper than renting a film. You can also stream media from your Mac and PC's onto your TV, except they have to be a specific format. Apple loves MP4 formatted movies and the Apple TV does not let your stream other video formats. However, it does take everything from your iTunes on your computer which is a great organization tool. This makes it a lot easier to play music when people are over, as you do not have to worry about re-creating playlists on the device. Overall, without getting into a full review, the Apple TV is an amazing product even though it has its limitations. The extra features are handy, but are really only if you have a mac. The WDTV is a very competitive product.

The WDTV is amazing as you can get some apps such as MLB TV and Netflix with it. It makes for a great media streamer from macs and pcs on the same wireless network. The best part is that you stream a lot easier because it is not file format specific like the Apple TV and this means less converting. Basically, download a video or rip one as an mkv format and put it into the folder that is connected to your WDTV. I like this concept because some formats such as flv and avi are popular and readily available, but they take some time to convert to MP4. It is not the best music player in the world, as it cannot connect to iTunes directly, however, it will read many formats that the Apple TV will not. It is bad when it comes to making playlists and playing them on the WDTV, but if you want to do this, copy a playlist onto an usb stick and put it into one of the two available USB ports, this is a very large advantage as Apple TV does not have this feature. This means you can also put external hard drives into it as well to make it easier to play your movies. The WDTV also makes your regular external hard drive and USB sticks networkable and you can use it like a network storage device. Pretty handy if you ask me; think of all the room you can save on your pc and macs this way.

The short end of it is that the WDTV is more powerful with more features like USB ports and file compatibility. However, Apple TV is stronger with Apps and the Mac features, if you are a mac owner. If you are looking for video and Netflix, grab the WDTV; as it will play more with less hassle. If you are looking for the all-around multimedia experience and playing a lot of audio through your home stereo, purchase the Apple TV; just be aware that it doesn’t have USB ports and your computer must be on at all times.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Snap and Flash!

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Let's Pick a Camera!

Spring is almost here and, for some people around the world, it is already summer. This means many vacations, fun times at the beach, hiking, outdoor parties, bon fires, night events and the list goes on. You are going to want to take pictures and chances are you will use your phone. But there will be a day when you want to take nice quality pictures with a little bit of zoom because there is going to be that image out in the distance that is beyond your cellphones reach. So I guess you can say you will be in the market for a camera. In this post, I will talk about what kind of camera is suitable for different situations. Oh, and before we continue, your tablet is NOT an acceptable camera because it is just too big. If you are using your tablet as a camera, then I suggest you pay attention...please.

The Basics

Sony Cybershot DSCW610
Your phone will probably be fine for the quick snappy pictures, especially if it is over 5 megapixels (MP). Don’t forget, your camera probably doesn’t have optical zoom (the lens does the moving for the zoom).
Your phone will then use digital zoom (the computer zooming for you). This creates a pixelated or blurry effect when you go to print images or crop them later on. If the image you seek to take a picture of is off in the distance, you are going to need something better. If you want something with a little bit of zoom then I recommend 3-5x optical zoom. Never use digital because it will make your pictures blurry. There are many affordable and basic point and shoot cameras out there that will do this for you. And just an FYI some still use AA batteries. Recommendation: STAY AWAY! They are lousy at holding a charge for a long period of time (150ish pictures), they get bulky and you will have to replace them every 10-12 months. Lithium batteries tend to be expensive but they last about 300 pictures and I’d recommend replacing them whenever you feel like it. I have one that has been lasting 5 years and that’s not a joke.

Mini Zoom

The basics won’t cut it and you need some zoom. That is not a problem considering these cameras have come down in price and size over the past couple years. I have seen cameras with 16x optical zoom that are as small as the basic cameras for $200 CDN. This is great because you can still carry it around with ease and grab an object within 50 feet with ease. If I may say so, it sounds perfect for concerts. There are some that are not so thin because they use AA batteries. I repeat, STAY AWAY! This will not be repeated again, I promise. In all honesty, the main difference between here and the basic camera is that zoom cameras have more range as compared to basic cameras because size can be very comparable.


Canon SX500is
I call this set the biggies because they are bigger than the other two categories. These cameras generally start with 26x optical zoom and have many features to play with. You can change lighting, shutter speed and a lot more functions. This type of camera is recommended for the family. Why? Because they are a lot better for sports, distance and can do higher end video recordings. The issue is that they are bulky and do not fit in pockets. However, if you have a big purse you can probably fit them in there. These cameras do take better pictures then the smaller cameras. Once you learn how to master this, it is on to the professional grade cameras, Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR).

All-in-all, I would recommend you go with a zoom camera. They are small, compact and have a decent zoom for the price. They are more than the basic ones, but not that much. So here we go, the cameras I would recommend you purchase this summer season. I picked these three for the following reasons:
  • One from each category
  • Lithium batteries
  • They all use an SD memory card
  • The lens quality is what makes the picture and they have great lenses

My recommendations:

  1. The basics – Sony Cyber-shot 14.1 MP DSCW610
  2. The zoom – Nikon COOLPIX 16MP S9300
  3. Biggies – Canon PowerShot 16MP SX500IS

Before you go, I think you need to know why you don’t need a new camera. If you camera is a few years old and is over 8 MP, then you can already print up to 8x10 inch pictures. If you really desire the HD video recording then I understand. If your images are getting “dirty,” purchase a camera cleaning kit from a retail outlet because you probably haven’t cleaned it before. Now go on out and have fun. Don’t forget to price match if you can! 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

My Ink is too Expensive/I Think my Printer is Broken

HP Officejet 8500 Pro

You can never go a day in a sales associate position in the tech world without hearing “I need a new printer.” Why you ask, because they always break and they are not likely to last past two years. So whether it be now or later, you will be asking yourself what kind of printer you need that is cheap on ink or if you should just go laser.

There are two myths that are around today and that is that laser printers are more efficient than inkjet printers and it is cheaper to buy a new printer than a cartridge. I’d also like to point out that the cost of the cartridge does not reflect the printer you are going to by, or it shouldn’t at least. You need to find out the number of pages within that cartridge. I have seen them range anywhere between 150 sheets per cartridge (SPC) and 2500+SPC. This does hold true for inkjet cartridges. But before we get to these points, we need to determine how much you print to find something that is right for your lifestyle.

There are three classes of printers, in my opinion; 1) home use, 2) business/school and 3) big business. People in education print out a lot and yes, this means students as well. The home use person will print approximately 10 pages per week while the business/school use will print more like 50+ sheets per week. This may not sound like a lot, but it does in fact add up. If you are in the big business category, more than 250 sheets, then you may want to look into higher end printers or re-evaluate your printing because you can create PDF documents in place of paper. Establish where you are and then aim for a cartridge that will last you two months at minimum.

If you are looking for a solid recommendation, I would encourage Hewlett Packard’s (HP) line of Officejet printers, specifically the 8500 series. The black XL cartridge can last up to 2,300 sheets for about $43 CND. This is better than most, if not all, retail store laser printers. They also have the capability to do higher quality prints and have four cartridges. Running one black and three separate colours saves you money down the line. When one empties, you just replace that one. Just a little word of advice; never EVER get a tri-colour cartridge, they just aren’t worth it.

When looking for a printer, do not forget to look for something with a scanner, wireless networking and one that is compatible with mobile devices. The HP Officejet 8500 series printers are all capable of doing this. They may start at about $220 , but they do go on sale as I have seen one go for $149. Before you think that is too much for a printer, you could pay $50 for a printer that does 500 SPC for $30; that simply doesn’t make sense. By the time you spend $120 on ink (about 2000 pages and black ink only), you have now spent $170 on the printer and cartridges also come half full with the original purchase. Going with an HP Officejet 8500 series, you would have spent $190 and have 300 more pages to go. Once you purchase the next cartridge, you will have already saved $80.

I hope you learned a bit about printers with this post. Keep in mind that the price of the printer reflects the cartridge. See below for more tips about printer maintenance and some features you should all have.

The Printer List:
  • Keep your printer turned on, it will help with the life of the cartridge and the printer.
  • Purchase a printer with four or more cartridges.
  • Purchase a printer with wireless and/or wired networking
  • Get something that is compatible with your smartphone and tablets
  • Don’t be cheap, get a good one or you will spend more money than you think.