2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 3

These are some of the hottest gifts available now, and some really good advice on which to get and why.

Over the past few years, I’ve put together a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. I never got to do one last year due to commitments to the now defunct Byte. Thankfully, I’ve got a chance to do it this year; and while nearly everything you see here will have some kind of software available for it from Soft32, I’m going to cover the hot categories – tablets, computers, smartphones, and accessories.

What you’re going to see are recommendations only. I don’t have everything that I’m going to list, so these aren’t necessarily reviews and shouldn’t be considered as such. However, I will try to cover recommendations from as many major camps within a given category as I can. For example, I’ll likely recommend a computer from the Windows as well as the Mac camp, a tablet from the Windows, iOS and/or Android camp, etc.

This is going to take a few days to get through, so please come back often to Soft32 for updates to the series. I’m going to do my best to get the series completed as quickly as possible. The other day I covered one of the hottest holiday gift items around – tablets. Today, we’re going to look at computers or PC’s.

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Smartphones: The Key to the Whole Thing – Introduction


I said this a couple days ago – I cut my teeth on smartphones. Back in the day they were called PDA Phones but any way you cut it, they were less advanced versions of the same devices we have today – calendar, contacts, email, and yes…some apps.

Mobile development is very different than it used to be. Most everything used to be a lot more complicated and pretty disjointed. If you had an app on a device and you upgraded to a new device on the same operating system, you weren’t guaranteed that the app would run on the new device. If the screen size was different, it was a completely different game. Newer versions of the OS also more than likely meant that you either had to leave the app behind, upgrade for a fee, or rebuy a license.

Buying apps was also very disjointed. There were specific web-based stores, and they didn’t always allow you to redownload purchases. Hard resetting your device meant that you may also have to do without an app if you didn’t make a back up of its installation file and registration information when you initially bought it. It wasn’t fun.

Today, with the implementation of the software ecosystem, things are much easier. There are centralized stores for each mobile operating system. There are multiple OEM’s with multiple devices on at least two of the three major mobile platforms available today. There are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of apps available for download and/or purchase. In short, we’ve come a LONG way in under 10 years.
When considering a smartphone for a loved one this Holiday season, you have a few different choices available to you. I’m not going to touch on some of the more “off the beaten track” options. This would include things like Symbian (sorry Nokia fans…), Firefox OS, or Tizen (formerly MeeGo OS, or the next version of Nokia’s mobile OS that didn’t quite make it off the ground).

 

Key Considerations

As expected, I’m going to cover Android, iOS and yes, Windows Phone. More than likely, you’re going to find something in one of these three ecosystems to meet your needs. However, just like the tablets I recommended the other day, you’re going to have to watch out for a couple of key items here.

  1. Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device? If you’re looking to upgrade your device from an older model to a newer model, or if you already have an Android or iOS device, there’s a good chance you may want to stay within that particular ecosystem. This really makes like a lot easier for you or your loved one receiving a smartphone as a gift this Holiday season. They likely won’t have to learn anything new or have to change the way they work and can simply start using the device out of the box, after its activated. Most mobile OS revisions are evolutionary instead of revolutionary, meaning that there isn’t drastic change from major release to major release. Moving from iOS 5 to iOS 6 was pretty easy. So was the move from Android Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean. Even the move from iOS 6 to iOS 7 wasn’t too horrible, once you got past the UI element changes.
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem? If this is your gift recipient’s first smartphone, or if they’re planning or wanting to change ecosystems then you have two very different considerations to take into account.
    - If you’re switching ecosystems: How many apps do you actively use? If you use a LOT of apps, determine the cost of rebuying all of those, and factor that into the cost of the new device. If you can’t use the device the way you want, then it may not be a good idea to switch ecosystems. If the cost of repurchasing all those apps pushes you over your budget, then you may have to rethink your purchase, or choose a lower cost model within that ecosystem.
    If you’re new to the smartphone game and this is your first device: Think long and hard about the choice you’re going to make. Its likely going to dictate what kind of upgrade device you’re going to purchase in the next 18 to 24 months. Its also going to dictate where you purchase your apps, songs and videos. You’re going to need to be comfortable with that choice, as it may limit your purchasing options, or they could be a bit more open than you thought. Being informed is being empowered and should make your life a bit easier, as you’ll know what to expect, and about how much you may initially spend.
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device? If you or your gift recipient already has a device, how much stuff do you have? If you have a boat load of accessories, will you be able to use them with the new device? If the answer is, “no,” then you have to determine what you can live without and what you can’t, as you may need to repurchase a LOT of stuff. Some times adapters exist, but aren’t always very practical or very usable. Device accessories are a huge cottage business for many; and a very lucrative one at that. If you have to leave a lot of accessories behind, you may need to factor the cost of replacing them into the purchase price of the device or plan on when you’re going to buy replacements. The key point to take away here, is to know what you can use and what you can’t and then figure out the associated costs and plan for the expense.
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

This is going to dictate what device you get and depending on what kind of apps and accessories you have already purchased, you may need to adjust your choice to account for budget.

Accessories and ecosystem aside, many of the best smartphones are very high priced, and many users may think its not practical to buy unsubsidized devices, as the down stroke to get into the device may be too deep.

At the end of the day, you need to realize that buying a smartphone is a bigger decision than just picking one and taking it home. You have upgrade considerations, content considerations and accessory considerations to account for. All of these will effect your device or near term costs. Being informed is being empowered and will allow you to make the best gift decision for you or your loved one(s).

In light of that – and I’ll likely have a column or article on this at a later date – you need to get ready for US cellular carriers to drop phone subsidies. T-Mobile was the first to do that. Subsidies cost carriers money. They try to pass that cost on to consumers, but they would rather finance the cost of the device, pushing the full cost to the consumer, than subsidizing it, where they share the cost of the device.

Before we get into what devices to consider, please note that I am going to make these recommendations devoid of carrier considerations. Based on your geographic location and the carrier choices available to you, you may need to adjust these recommendations to suite your needs.

Android

Of the three major mobile operating systems to choose from, picking the right Android phone represents the biggest challenge out there. When it comes to iOS devices, only one manufacturer is making that kind of device – Apple. When it comes to Windows Phone, while more than one OEM makes a Windows Phone, its really Nokia’s Lumia line that calls attention to itself. However, when it comes to Android devices the field of viable players is much wider.

And quite honestly, so are many of the phones. I think one of the biggest issues that I have with Android phones is that they are, in many cases, freakishly wide. I know that wide screens are really in right now, but I really have an issue with many of the Android phones available today. They’re too wide in my opinion.

However, screen size aside, as of this writing, if I had to or wanted to choose and Android phone for myself I’d likely choose either a HTC One or a Nexus 5. Both devices are high end smartphones and will provide you with, possibly, years of reliable use.

The HTC One comes in either 32GB or 64GB flavors and has a quad-core 1.7Ghz Snapdragon processor. It has 2GB of RAM and has decent battery life, despite the power it possesses. The device is probably one of the best that HTC has ever engineered and that’s saying a lot for a company that defined what smartphones really should be between 2003 and 2006 when they supplied i-mate with some of the best devices ever made.

If the HTC one isn’t for you, then you might want to try the Nexus 5. While its camera doesn’t even come close to competing with the 41MP camera in the Lumia 1020, at 8MP it is on par with other offerings available today.

The Nexus 5 is Google’s latest phone, and is guaranteed to provide the most Google-like experience available today. All other Android experiences may be tainted by the customized software layer that most OEM’s place on top of Android, like HTC’s latest version of HTC Sense.

The Nexus 5 will always run the latest version of Android (as long as its supported) and costs an affordable $349, unlocked. Many other devices, including the Apple iPhone 5S, cost over $600 unlocked.

iOS

While all three major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer a subsidized version of the iPhone 5S, the only thing you have to worry about is which one do you want a 2 year contract with. At $199, the 16GB iPhone 5S is probably the best way to go. Its affordable and gets you the latest version of the device without breaking the bank. If $199 is too much for you to spend on a device that will require a 2 year contractual commitment, then considering the iPhone 4S is a good decision, as it will require no money down. The only thing you need to understand is that it only comes in an 8GB flavor, which may not offer enough room to store apps and other content.

Apple’s cell phone is a decent buy and a good decision for those computing users who use Macs as their PC of choice or for those that really like iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. A decision to purchase an iDevice is really driven more by content than by any other factor, in my opinion.
Windows Phone
The biggest reason to get a Windows Phone is NOT because of the ecosystem or because of the software store or accessories. Windows Phone is a hot mess right now, when it comes to ecosystem and software stores. There are two reasons to get a Windows Phone right now – ease of use and digital camera; and honestly, the second reason out-weighs the first.

If pushed, many mobile pundits – myself included – will tell you that despite its many disjointed, ecosystem challenges, Windows Phones have some of the best built in cameras on the market today. At 41MP, they have some of the best point and shoot digital cameras on the market. In fact, the camera on a Windows Phone likely has a higher megapixel rating than your DSLR or dedicated, point and shoot digital camera.

To this end, if you’re interested in a Windows Phone, the one to get would be the Lumia 1020. It has a 4.5″ AMOLED display, a 41MP PureView camera and a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor. It supports LTE network bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. It also has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage for documents, apps and content. Despite whatever issues or short comings the ecosystem has, the device is getting good press from all over the industry. If you’re looking for a Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020 is the one to get.

Conclusion

Buying a smartphone is not an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. In many cases, its likely going to become your defacto internet device. You’ll likely do more web surfing over your phone than you will with your PC.

Regardless of what decision you ultimately make regarding which device to buy, you’ll need to answer a few questions for yourself before moving forward –

  1.  Do you or your loved one(s) already have a smartphone and/or tablet and you’re just looking to upgrade your device?
  2. Are you planning on switching ecosystems or is this the first device in an ecosystem?
  3. What kind of accessories have you purchased? Can they be used with the new device?
  4. What kind of budget do you have for this purchase?

Like PC’s and tablet’s budget limitations may drive your smartphone purchase. If that’s the case with you, then do yourself a favor and still go through the exercise I’ve outlined here. It will at the very least get to take a long hard look at the larger picture of choosing the best smartphone for you.

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View documents with WinDJView

1345038259_1340602910_windjviewView documents with this fast and easy to use PDF alternative reader for Windows.

Taking documentation with you, or even distributing documentation can be a very important task. PDF’s may be the defacto default, but the solution can be expensive to create and thankfully, they aren’t the only game in town. This is one of the major reasons why apps like WinDJView. It’s a DJvu reader for Windows.

DjVu (pronounced “déjà vu”) is a digital document format similar to PDF with advanced compression technology and a high performance value. DjVu allows for the distribution via the Internet and on DVD of very high resolution images of scanned documents, digital documents, and photographs.

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WinDJView reads these portable documents and is a fast, compact and powerful viewer with a tabbed interface, continuous scrolling and advanced printing options. It also supports Windows XP to Windows 8.x. If you need to pull parts out, the app will let you first search to find the passages you need but then highlight and copy what you need out.

WinDJView is a solid piece of software and the DJvu format is a great alternative to Adobe’s PDF format. The software has everything that you would want in a reader app, and I found it very easy to install and use. If you want to convert documents to DJvu format, you can do so for free at DJvu.org.

download WinDJView

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2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 2

Computers – or How to get Some Serious Work Done – Introduction

image3809I’ve been working with computers since 1981 when I began managing a computer retail store at the age of 16. Back then, in the days just prior to the retail introduction of the IBM PC and PC AT (the AT stood for Advanced Technology) most computers were very much reminiscent of the game consoles of today.  Computers like the TI99-4A and the Commodore 64 or the Apple II, were common place and were really more about playing games than getting serious work done.

Today, things are much different.  Computers can do real work and be taken most anywhere you need them to go. You can get them with a number of different operating systems on them, and in some cases a single computer can run more than one operating system…sometimes, even at once.  However, that may require some expertise and/or optional hardware and/or software in order to get it to run correctly.

There are a number of different choices in the desktop, notebook and ultrabook categories of hardware as well as in operating systems.  There’s a bit more to consider here than there was for tablets, so get ready to take in some information.  It may be a bit long, but in the end, I think you’ll find it worth the read.  Finding the right computer for your loved one(s) this Christmas is going to require you to consider the following:

What are you trying to do and how critical is the mission?

Assessing what you want to do and how important it is to you is totally subjective.  No one can really tell you that the tasks that you’ve set out for yourself are unimportant other than YOU. The answer to this question will help guide you to the right type of hardware.  The point is you want the right tool for the job.  For example, if your most important task is school work, you’re going to want something with a decent keyboard, and probably a dedicated – rather than integrated – pointing device. If the most important task is digital photo retouching, you’re going to want something that has a decent, monitor or screen. If you’re doing video work, you’re going to need a decent amount of processing power.

If you’re looking for a recreational PC, and your most important activity is social networking or email or web surfing, then the class of machine you’ll likely want or need is going to be completely different. You need to choose the hardware type and configuration that best suits your needs.

What software tools are available to satisfy that need; and at what cost(s)?

One of the best things about Soft32 is that it has a number of different resources for a number of different hardware platforms.  You can find software for Mac, Windows as well as mobile platforms. Having a place where you can find different kinds of applications at affordable prices is important.  Keep our link close at hand.

When you consider what you want to do with a computer, determining what tools might best perform those tasks is important. For example, while “Program X” may be available for both Mac and Windows, it may actually work better on one platform than on another.  Specific features may be better implemented on one side of the fence than on the other, or it may be easier to get the TYPE of applications you’re looking for on one platform rather than another.

Determining what you might want to complete your mission critical tasks with and what operating system they work best under will be a key factor in determining the kind of computer you buy. For example, Quicken from Intuit has always been much more advanced and much more complete on the Windows than on OS X. If financial management is your mission critical task and Quicken is your tool of choice, then a Windows machine may be a better choice than a Mac or Linux machine.  The differences between the way Microsoft Office functions on a Windows box vs. a Mac has closed a great deal with Office for Mac 2011.  Word for Mac 2011 is very similar in functionality to Word 2010/2013 for Windows.  The same can nearly be said for both Excel and PowerPoint. In this case, you could choose either a Mac or a Windows box.

However, if Exchange connectivity with a Microsoft tool (namely Outlook) or working with desktop database apps (namely Access) is an important part of your productivity regimen, then again, a Windows machine is likely your best bet.  At the end of the day, you need to assess what apps you will have access to, to satisfy your computing needs and then pick the hardware platform that has those tools.

This isn’t an easy task, and will likely take the most time in choosing either a first time PC or in reassessing what options you have when considering a computer upgrade.

What hardware configuration best meets that need; and where do you need to perform the work?

Different computing devices are better suited to the specific tasks for which they were specifically designed. In other words, you’re not going to want to do CAD/CAM work with a smartphone or netbook. You’re going to need to choose the type of device you need based on what you’re trying to do.

If you don’t need to cart your computer around, then picking a desktop is likely an easy/easier decision.  If portability is a need, then you need to determine HOW portable you need to be; or more easily put, how much junk are you going to be carrying around with you when you’re likely to need your computer? If you’re a mobile warrior – sales exec or IT consultant/contractor – frequently bouncing from place to place, then you may want something that is small and easy to carry along with the rest of your gear. If you’re a photographer or other video or freelancing professional, you may want or need  something with a large, or high resolution screen.

With the implementation of touch and the growing popularity of tablets, you now also need to consider how important a touch screen will be to you, as many notebooks and ultrabooks now come with touch screens and either a capacitive or resistive stylus. You need to determine if you’re more interested in a standard touch experience (best with a capacitive touch screen) vs. handwritten note experience (best with a resistive touch screen).

There are a lot of choices to be made here, the least of which include rotating hard drive or SSD, hard drive or SSD size, RAM amount, processor brand, type and model and graphics adapter and RAM amounts. Then you will want to determine if you’re going to want to upgrade any of these. Your PC choices may be limited by the amount of end user upgradeable equipment in your PC of choice. Generally speaking, desktops offer more expandability options than laptops or ultrabooks.  Many, if not most or all of these decisions, will also have a cost component as well.

Working though this task may also be difficult and will take up a bit of time when choosing either a first time PC or in reassessing what options you have when considering a computer upgrade.

What is your hardware budget; and how flexible is it?

Of all the decisions you have to make, this is probably the easiest decision out there.  Many of the Mac choices beyond the entry level build of each model can be very expensive.  Many Windows desktops and laptops are much more affordable than their Mac counterparts, even at the higher end models.  However – and this is a very important point – a Mac is a very versatile machine.  It can dual boot OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7.x/8.x natively via Apple’s Boot Camp.  With some basic Linux hacking, you may even be able to get a native triple boot – Windows, OS X and Linux – going. However, it’s clear – Macs are expensive.

Windows machines are generally much more affordable. While that’s partially due to the diverse hardware manufacturers, it’s also due to availability of components. OEM’s have a choice in buying components and can buy in bulk.  With more than one OEM making Windows machines for the masses, it’s easy to find something that’s in your price range.

If the model you choose is end user upgradable, buying the entry level model for the processor type you want and then upgrading RAM, hard drive, and other components can save you a ton of money over time.

At the end of the day, what you decide to buy should be tied to what you want to do and where you need to do it.  Please notice that I didn’t ask you what operating system preference you might have.  In fact, that wasn’t even part of the equation.  The bottom line is that what you do and where you need to do it will drive how you work and the tools you use, including the operating system driving the PC. Period.

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2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 1

These are some of the hottest gifts available now, and some really good advice on which to get and why.

image2993Over the past few years, I’ve put together a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. I never got to do one last year due to commitments to the now defunct Byte. Thankfully, I’ve got a chance to do it this year; and while nearly everything you see here will have some kind of software available for it from Soft32, I’m going to cover the hot categories – tablets, smartphones, computers and accessories.

What you’re going to see are recommendations only. I don’t have everything that I’m going to list, so these aren’t necessarily reviews and shouldn’t be considered as such. However, I will try to cover recommendations from as many major camps within a given category as I can.   For example, I’ll likely recommend a computer from the Windows as well as the Mac camp, a tablet from the Windows, iOS and/or Android camp, etc.

This is going to take a few days to get through, so please come back often to Soft32 Blog for updates to the series. I’m going to do my best to get the series completed as quickly as possible.   Let’s get things started right now with tablets.

Tablets – Lean Back Devices with Lean Forward Capabilities
I’ve been spewing a lot of information and commentary lately about how Lean Back and Lean Forward devices don’t mix and match well in the same device.   I’ve talked to a great many people about this particular point and feel comfortable saying this about combining the two efforts into a single device:

1.    Do you have a desktop or laptop and are adding a tablet to the mix?
From my point of view, this is the most likely use case. Here, it’s likely that you’ve got set work habits that you’re looking to break away from your work machine. A lean back device or tablet is a GREAT way to do that.     You get all the multimedia and gaming goodness without having to mix apples and oranges between work and personal machines.
2.    Is your smartphone your main computing device?
If this is the case, then you’d probably benefit a great deal from moving up to a tablet as your main computing device. You’ll get much the same experience and be able to use the same apps or tools if you stick to the same ecosystem as your smartphone. The multimedia and gaming experience on a tablet will be much better and you’ll still be able to do everything you’ve been doing on your phone – email, social networking, IM and texting, and web surfing.
3.    Are you adding a tablet to your work or recreation gear?
I have found in most cases that when you do this, you’re adding hardware here to fulfill a specific need. In the office, you likely want something that can get you access to the office network so you can check email and access work specific resources during or between meetings.   In my case, I wanted to use a Windows tablet as a digital notepad so I wouldn’t have to lug different or more than one notebook between to and from meetings.   For down time, I wanted to use an iPad to watch movies, TV shows or other video on a commuter train. My needs and use cases were specific. I have found that most business and/or power users use tablets in a similar fashion.

In the end, how you use a tablet – either lean back or lean forward or a combination of both – is totally up to you and the way you work or want to work.   Just be aware of your needs and then make the choice and selection that best fits those needs.

Android
There are so many different types of Android tablets from a number of different vendors, in a number of different form factors, configurations and price points. Regardless of your budget, you’ll likely be able to find something that will satisfy your computing style and needs in the Android camp.

While this is Android’s biggest advantage, it’s also its biggest problem. There’s TOO MUCH choice here, and it can be overwhelming.   My recommendation – if you don’t know what you want, go with a no-name brand and save some money.   This way, you get the tablet experience and get to try it out without investing more than $100 or so.   You can find a number of Android tablets at No More Rack or Rakuten (formerly Buy.com)   in the $100 price range.

If you already have a high end smartphone and there’s a tablet available by the same manufacturer, AND you can afford a matching high end tablet, I’d marry the two.   The important point here is that if you have an Android smartphone, to go with an Android tablet and vice-versa.   The big benefit here is insuring you can use the same software across both devices.

To that end,   if you’re going to go with a high-end tablet, my recommendation would be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.   The Galaxy Note line – over the Galaxy Tab line – specializes in hand written notes and OCR. While it works great with any Bluetooth keyboard (as does the Galaxy Tab line), the Galaxy Note 10.1 is specifically designed to take handwritten notes, which for a high school or college student is perfect.   You can still draw, sketch and create on the fly graphics, but you’ll also have the ability to take notes and then convert your handwriting to text later on.

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Like any Android tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1 will work very well with Google Apps, so you’ll have access to a full blown office suite of apps, provided you have the connectivity you need to get out to the internet. As I said, this tablet works well for students (both under grads and graduates) as well as business types (again, please keep your use habits in mind…) who might want to take this to meetings as a digital notepad.

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Ammyy Admin – Take Control.

ammyy-admin

Take control of a remote PC with this great remote control app for Windows.

Working with computers is what I do, all day, every day. Most of you who frequent Soft32 know that. I know I probably mention it way too much. However, when you work with computers as much as I do, you often find yourself with many different needs, many different reasons to get to one or another PC on a local or distant network. For that, you need Ammyy Admin. It’s a remote control app for Windows.

Remote desktop software allows you to take control of a desktop PC. Ammyy Admin does just that; and its kinda cool. It can be used for remote administration, remote office arrangement, or remote support. Ammyy Admin gets you access to a remote PC via the internet without firewalls or NAT problems. You can work with remote PCs as if you’re sitting right in front of them. In order to keep all of your data and your activities safe and private, Ammyy Admin uses advanced AES and RSA encryption for each remote session.

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Ammyy Admin is reliable, trustworthy and affordable. One of the best things about it is that it doesn’t require installation or admin access to use. The remote desktop is available within a few seconds after the app has been started.

Ammyy Admin is a really easy to use, important piece of software. Controlling a PC that you don’t have physical access to can be a huge plus and advantage, especially if you have to provide some kind of support or advice to users who need your help. For me, apps like this can make or break my ability help friends and family as well as do my job.

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The biggest thing here, is that the app doesn’t require any installation in order to be used. Put it on your PC and go. That’s it. You get a secure, fast, easy way to control a remote PC that can easily get past NAT and firewalls. It also has built in voice chat and a file manager that will allow you to grab files and talk to friends and family as you try to give them a hand. 

Ammyy Admin offers a great deal and the price is more than right. Plainly put, the app is a winner.

download Ammyy Admin

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Browse the web in speed and style with Opera

opera_retina_iconChange is constant. If there’s one thing that you can count on staying the same, it’s the fact that things change. Case in point, Soft32 reviewed Opera Browser just over a year ago. At the time, I found Opera to be a decent browser, but not quite on par with, say, Chrome or Firefox. A year can make a huge difference, and quite honestly it did with the platform independent browser, Opera.

The internet is a huge resource, and if you go poking about, you never know what you’re gonna find. Opera makes that easier than ever with its Discover feature. Discover gives you top-quality news and entertainment from all around the globe. You can enjoy new content from a variety of categories and read articles from your region, in your language with just a few clicks. Its quick and easy to get the content you want.

Speaking of search, finding things with Opera is really easy. The browser has one intuitive, powerful location for searching and navigating the web. You can search using multiple providers and view the site suggestions as you type. This type of behavior should be very familiar to most web users and is a welcomed addition to Opera Browser.

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If you’re on a slow network, or if you just want to make your browsing experience that much faster, again, Opera has you covered. Its Off-Road mode compresses pages for faster, all-conditions browsing. It helps you stay online when your connection slows down. If you’re concerned about dropping a connection, or things totally tanking, Off-Road will help your browsing experience.

One of the biggest problems I’ve got with all of my bookmarks and favorites is keeping them straight and of course, getting to the ones that I use the most. Opera’s enhanced Speed Dial, groups your most-visited sites directly on a custom start-up page. From there, you can quickly search and access your favorite content. Once you’ve found something you like, keeping it just got easier. Opera’s Stash feature can capture a page with one click and organizes captured pages into a simple, sophisticated list. You can quickly search what you’ve stashed in a resizable preview page; or search what you’ve saved, by keywords.

Opera has come a long way in just over a year. With improved search and navigation support and the ability to support off-line browsing; and the ability to make your browsing experience, faster, Opera has changed..and its changed for the better.

If you’re looking for an improved browser experience, then Opera may just be the breath of fresh air you’ve been looking for.

download Opera

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The Golden One

6574.Xbox-logo.jpg-550x0Yes, the Golden One is not someone, it’s something. It’s not a special one, it’s THE Golden One.

You might have heard about the iPhone 5s golden edition, with a fake gold coloring, thisONE is for real. An Xbox One plated in 24-karat gold. Yeap, it’s the best thing you can buy if you’re ever getting bored while you’re counting your money.

Get ready to play with Class – Ok, so you decided to spent about £6000 ($9750) for this extremely fine piece of technology, and for this amount of money, you have some special features, right? Well, NO. It’s an ordinary Xbox One, no games included. And I don’t know if there are any golden gamepads included. So, how about the Xbox Live Gold membership? This must be included, right? We are talking about gold here… No, not even the gold membership. Standard Xbox One console. But “a bit” shinier.

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 So, this is the item spotted and photographed by a Reddit user – available only in Harrods store – London. (This store it’s known for selling special luxury edition items like furniture, fashion, electronics, etc…)

– available only in Harrods store – London. (This store it’s known for selling special luxury edition items like furniture, fashion, electronics, etc…)

Bad news for the Xbox Golden One fans, I know… But if you can afford to buy this, you can plan a visit to the store, wherever you’re from. And who knows, maybe you see some other items that you might like there!

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‘K… Unlock ‘Em if You Got ‘Em!

Major US carriers agree to unlocking principles.  Story at 11pm…

shutterstock_129802106I’ve been following this particular story for the past few weeks or so.  Quite honestly, this particular issue is near and dear to my heart as I cut my journalistic teeth on mobility – all forms of mobile computing to be precise – and its probably the one computing issue I really know the most about.  Today’s development is significant, as it brings the US closer to parity with other countries in the world when it comes to interoperability (but the true form of that is a whole other ball of wax for a later date…)

Anywho… the four major wireless carriers in the US – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as fellow CTIA member US Cellular, have all agreed to the following:
1.    To post their device unlocking policies on their websites
2.    To notify customers once their devices are eligible for unlocking
3.    To unlock mobile devices for customers after their service contract has expired
4.    To unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than 1 year after their initial activation
5.    To respond to unlock requests within 2 business days
6.    Military customers who become deployed can have their devices immediately unlocked upon providing the appropriate deployment paperwork

According to former NFL wide receiver and current CTIA President and CEO, Steve Largent, “…this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today.”

While I applaud not only the wireless carriers and the CTIA for coming together on this, let’s not forget that carriers in the European Union have had similar policies in place for a while now.  Technologically, the US is behind the curve. This is a catch up move.

However, it is a significant and important development; and its one that I’m very glad came about. While this doesn’t supersede the restrictions in the DMCA that prevents cell phone owners from unlocking phones on their own, it will give cell phone users a clear understanding of when and how they can get their phones unlocked and if they will have to purchase what is commonly called a “burner phone” if and when they travel internationally before they’re eligible to unlock their current phone with their home-based carrier.  (that still doesn’t sit well with me, but its much better than what we had before).

The six, adopted unlocking principles, in their entirety, are:

1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

2. Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

3. Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

4. Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.

5. Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

6. Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers

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