snappea_iconManage your Android device with your PC with this must have Windows utility.

At times, I can be very old school about my mobile devices. My smartphone isn’t a dedicated computing device. Its what I use when I’m away from my laptop, whether its docked or not. As such, it’s a companion device and not as mission critical as, say, for someone who only emails or surfs with it, as opposed with some other device. My iPhone is nearly always connected to my Mac unless I’m away from my desk.

iPhones have iTunes. Until recently, Windows MOBILE (not Windows Phone) devices had ActiveSync. If you have an Android device, as so many users do, you don’t have anything official from Google at this time to act as a hub for your device. This is where SnapPea comes in. Its an Android sync-hub for Windows PC’s; and it may just be the app you’ve been looking for.

SnapPea allows you to manage your Android smartphone or tablet from your PC. You can organize your contacts, music, and pictures from the comfort of your desktop. When you’re ready, you can quickly and easily transfer any file to your device.

If you’re an iTunes user and want to use your iTunes content on your Android device, you can easily import your iTunes library to your Android device, too. Now, switching to Android doesn’t mean you have to leave all of your content behind. You can take your music and videos with you.



SnapPea is a decent sync manager for Android. You can use it to download thousands of apps to your desktop, allowing you to save your data plan for when you’re out and about. The desktop app also allows you to send text messages from a full-size keyboard, making it easier to communicate with friends and loved ones.

download SnapPea

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Burn HD video discs and play them back on both set top boxes and your Windows PC with this cool utility.

My optical drive has been getting quite a workout lately. It’s a good thing, too. I’ve got well over 500 movies in both standard and HD formats. That’s great for when I feel like watching a movie on my PC or on my iPad or with my AppleTV. However, sometimes, it would just be nice to be able to pop a disc in a set top box and watch it because the TV that the AppleTV is connected to is busy, or I don’t want to watch on my Mac or iPad. This is where BCtoAVCHD comes in. It’s a cool Windows utility that can burn HD video discs that can be played on your computer or on your set top box.

BDtoAVCHD creates AVCHD discs from Blu-Ray or HD MKV files. As output we get the folder structure ready to burn to a DVD5 or DVD9. The software compresses the video to achieve the desired overall size of 4.7 GB or 8.5 GB with the highest possible quality.

The AVCHD format allows playback of the same type of content that a Blu-Ray drive or player does while maintaining HD (up to 1080p) but on DVD5 or DVD9 media. It is ideal for backing up Blu-Ray discs to a much a smaller disc while maintaining high quality. Media is converted only when necessary; and you don’t need any special codecs or media splitters installed. The best part – your discs can be played on almost any desktop Blu-ray player or PS3.


BDtoAVCHD would be a really cool program if I could get the app to work with some of the video files I have on my Mac. Unfortunately, it wants to use M2TS or MKV files, and that’s it. Unfortunately, I have none. While the app will work with Blu-ray discs directly, you have to have a Blu-ray drive to read a disc, and unfortunately, mine is on the fritz.

The fact that this app won’t use industry standard video files like MPG’s or WMV’s or other HD compatible file is somewhat upsetting, and greatly reduces the value and usefulness of the app in my eyes.

download BDtoAVCHD

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Ballmer – Forced Out or Retired?

There are a number of credible rumors running round the internets on Steve Ballmer’s announced retirement.


Steve Ballmer announced that he was retiring as Microsoft’s CEO last week. This is surprising and not so surprising at the same time.  As soon as the announcement hit, though, many people started speculating on what had happened.  Ballmer had mentioned retirement before, but not until 2018 or so.

There are two credible rumors that caused Ballmer’s ouster that I want to concentrate on with this column. Both are related, but in many ways have their own lives – the $900M Surface RT write down and Ballmer losing Bill’s support. I’m going to hit these briefly, because, quite honestly, there’s a great deal to ramble on about here…

$900M Surface RT Write-Off
The write off is old news; but very likely the cause that brought Ballmer down. I don’t care who you are, or what company you work for. If you’re the captain of the ship and get hit by that photon torpedo, either you or the ship is going down (or both, depending on the company). Thankfully, Microsoft can weather the storm, but it’s clear, they’re going to get a new captain.

Please remember that the RT hardware isn’t bad. I think both Surface tablets are decent, but it’s the tablet/desktop convergence that is the problem. It has confused and confounded users from the beginning. Microsoft is having issues shedding its traditional computing model, and that contributed to the write off and Ballmer’s downfall,

I’m not surprised, though. Ballmer has NEVER understood mobile computing. It’s the major reason why they continued to come behind RIMM (now Blackberry) back in the early to mid PocketPC/Windows Mobile days, and why Windows Phone, while considered by many to be a superior mobile platform, doesn’t have any real market share to speak of.

Interestingly enough, I wrote to Steve Ballmer 13 years ago and offered my services to him and Microsoft.  I got a letter back from his office saying, “thanks but Steve’s got this.” I am in no way saying I could have prevented this from happening, but either Ballmer wouldn’t listen to mobile strategists or they were afraid to stand up to him and tell him he was wrong. It’s too bad; and hopefully the new Microsoft and now new CEO will change the culture.

I’ve been calling for Ballmer’s ouster for years. It’s too bad it took a $1.0B finance hit to make it happen.

Ballmer Lost Bill’s Support
The other big rumor going around is that Steve lost Bill’s support at the Board level. Up to now, Steve’s had it. Bill – though not part of the day-to-day at Microsoft any longer – handpicked Ballmer to succeed him and has supported him throughout his tenure as CEO – until now.

It’s sad that it took nearly $1B US reasons for Bill to withdraw his support, but I honestly think it’s overdue.  As I mentioned, Ballmer has never understood Mobility or Mobile Computing. If he did, it’s clear that Windows Phone would have had a different product development path. Windows CE/Windows Mobile wouldn’t have hung around so long, and received such lack-luster internal support. Changes to Microsoft’s standard, PC platform would have come earlier than as part of Windows 8; and most certainly, Windows XP would have had a much different life cycle than it did.

Now, there’s a lot in that last paragraph that doesn’t necessarily deal directly with mobile computing, but a different mobile strategy would have effected a LOT more than just mobile OS and mobile devices at Microsoft.

At the End of the Day
I hope the new Microsoft CEO comes from outside the organization and brings a new point of view and mobile computing outlook to the organization. I hope that they understand what the consumer wants, what the enterprise will accept and isn’t afraid to put both chocolate and peanut butter together. While mobility isn’t ALL about CoIT at this time, it’s too much of a consideration not to have someone at the helm that doesn’t understand it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Microsoft development in the comments, below.

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inky_logoTake control of your inbox with this cool Windows based email app.

There are a lot of pundits out there who say that email is dead and dying. I totally disagree. There will likely be a need to send an electronic letter or memo from one place to another outside of a social networking setting for quite some time.

Organizing your inbox isn’t always easy. Email comes from a number of different sources, and most individuals have two or more accounts. It’s for this reason that I really like applications like Inky. It’s a Windows app that helps you take control of your inbox.

Inky helps organize your inbox and saves you time by displaying all your email messages in one place. It sorts them by relevance. As soon as you sign in for the first time, Inky goes to work figuring out what mail is important to you and helps you find it by prominently displaying it. Inky is customizable and can sort and filter using any criteria.

Whether you have one account or five, Inky provides a new, refreshingly simple interface to check all your mail. From one click unsubscribe to package tracking, Inky’s smart tools help you get things done and get on with your life.


Inky is a decent email client that does simply an ok job. It’s very simple and easy to use and if you’ve used an iPad or a Windows tablet recently, then you should be pretty familiar with Inky. Its interface is similar to those.

The biggest problem I had with Inky is that while it pulled the headers for all of the mail in the one account that I used to test the app with, it couldn’t or wouldn’t pull the full message. It made working with the program nearly impossible.

The app also doesn’t do much to help you get to “Inbox-Zero” or a fully, empty inbox where all of your email is addressed. The of the relevance filters didn’t work well on my MSN email address. I’m not certain why.

The app isn’t bad, and the price is definitely right. However there wasn’t a lot here that made me want to keep it.

download Inky

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What you Should Do if You (Still) Run Windows XP

Just an FYI – Microsoft is officially ending support on 2014-04-08…

gravestoneI’ve skirted around this issue a couple different times.  However, if you’re a consumer and you’re still using Windows XP, you have just a little bit of time to figure out what you want to do. Around Tax Time next year, the 15 year party comes to a close.

So, what should you do?  Great question. My good friend, and former Editorial Director of BYTE, Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article on this today. It’s funny, because I had the same questions poised to me by an aunt who isn’t very computer savvy. She asked pretty much the same question Larry’s relative asked –

Why should I upgrade a computer that’s working just fine?

Let’s look at that quickly, and then look at what you can do.

Why You Should Upgrade from Windows XP

The simple and short answer is for security purposes.

Windows XP has been around since 1999. That’s almost 15 years by the time Microsoft officially stops supporting it via Windows Update.  As an operating system, it’s an extremely well known quantity and most of its flaws and problems are very well known.

Microsoft has been issuing security patches for it (and older versions of Internet Explorer – IE 9 and older) for a very long time. If you’re still using Windows XP because its ok, doing what it’s supposed to be doing and you’re just not a person who wants to update your computer’s operating system, I understand.  I understand completely.  However, as my Nana used to say – “the party’s over…”

Malware developers (or hackers) are going to be hoping you just don’t upgrade. They’re banking on you hating the idea of upgrading an existing computer to Windows 7 or Windows 8.x SO much, that you stay on Windows XP.  At that point, after 2013-04-08, they’re going to start hitting websites and perhaps your mail server or your PC directly with Phishing attacks, Zero Day exploits and other malware so they can steal personal and private information that either contains financial information or will lead them to it.

Make no mistake, there are criminals everywhere on the planet who WILL try this, and keeping your computer on Windows XP isn’t just you laughing in the face of danger, it’s you begging to be hacked.  In many cases, people don’t know they’re being infected with a virus or other malware. Its only AFTER the infection has set in – after the damage is done – that they see the problems.

So, get used to the idea.  You have 7 months as of this writing to figure out what you want to do.  Once you make the decision to bite the bullet, you have a couple of options.

What you Should Do

This is a GREAT question and it’s a great question to ask now – at this time of year – because there are a number of options open to consumers.  You have back to school sales as well as the upcoming 2013 Holiday Season sales to look forward to, to help you out.  It also gives you some time to get comfortable with the decision.

So basically, you have 2 choices –

  • Upgrade your Existing PC
  • Purchase a New PC

Let’s take a quick look at both. There are Pros and Cons to both scenarios.

Upgrade Your Existing PC


  • (May be More) Cost Effective
  • (Probably) No Additional Hardware Required


  • No direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7
  • Must Wipe and clean install for direct to Windows 7
  • Additional software upgrades may be required
  • Windows XP PC’s may not work well with Windows 8 (a clean install is still required)

In many cases, upgrading is always the cheaper route, but in this case, it may not be. There’s no direct upgrade path from Window XP to Windows 7. In order to keep all of your programs installed and on your computer without reinstalling them, you have to upgrade to Windows Vista first. The bad thing with that is you have to buy a license for Vista (which wasn’t cheap) in order to keep all your apps installed.

Upgrading directly to Windows 7 from Windows XP requires a clean install. That means you have to reinstall all of your software from scratch after the OS install completes. That’s a lot more work and that’s if you can find the install media, download links or registration codes for your apps.  After 15 years, that may be a problem.  You may find you need to contact the software provider and request a replacement code or you may have to purchase a new license.

In short, upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP can be a hot mess, and may be more problematic than it’s worth, if you’re not savvy enough to jump through all the hoops.

Purchase a New PC


  • Cleaner
  • Easier for non-technical users


  • More expensive
  • Windows 7 may not be an available OS option at time of PC purchase
  • Windows 8 is drastically different than Windows 7 & is not optimal for non-touch enabled PC’s

Purchasing a new PC is always more expensive, and learning how to use new hardware can present a number of unknown challenges. However, if you’re not up to switching from XP to Windows 7 (Vista isn’t sold any more), this is the easiest way to go.

The biggest thing you have to consider here is if purchasing a touch enabled PC (either Win8 tablet or touch enabled desktop) is what you want to do. In many cases, depending on the vendor, you may be able to order a PC with Windows 7 on it, or request it from the provider to replace Windows 8.
At the end of the day, if you’re still using XP, it’s time to change. You have a few months to get used to the idea, but you need to make that upgrade or purchase choice, very, very soon.

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DecrapIconClean up a new computer and start fresh. That’s the benefit of this cool Windows utility.

One of the neatest things about opening a new computer for the first time is finding out exactly what the manufacturer put on it. One of the worst things is trying to remove it after you find out its really nothing more than trashware. This is why I like applications like Decrap. Not only is it aptly named, it’s a clean up tool for Windows machines that may just be what you need.

Decrap is an application that helps you safely and easily remove all of the bloatware that comes pre-installed by the manufacturer on a new Windows PC. It can often take hours or even days to get all the pre-installed junk removed from your new computer. However, with this little freeware app, you can completely uninstall all the unneeded software without any real user input!

Pre-installed bloatware is often deeply integrated into the Windows operating system. Trying to remove it by simply deleting the installation folders not only means you may not get rid of it all, but can also result in other important programs not functioning properly.


Decrap looks like it’s a decent app; but the biggest problem it has is that its not always clear what you should keep and what you should remove. You’re going to need to understand what apps you installed and what apps you want to keep. If you can’t figure that out, you’re going to have a hard time using the app. I wouldn’t trust it in full automatic mode. I’m really not THAT trusting.

This app isn’t great, but its definitely NOT bad at all. As long as you understand what junk the OEM installed on your new PC and what you want to remove, then you should have no problems using Decrap to clean up your PC.

download Decrap

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What’s all the Fuss with Wearable Tech

…and why should you care? Great questions. I recently saw something on this and have something to add.

In the 2010-2011 time frame, the realization that a well-established ecosystem could make or break a mobile platform was all the rage.  Apple, or more specifically Steve Jobs, had figured that out a long while back, and had been moving towards that direction after capturing the digital music market in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today, there seems to be a new market emerging, and like the early development of the ecosystem, there aren’t a lot of people who quite get it.

Wearable Technology is supposed to be huge.

indexMany are asking how, when C|Net pronounced the Microsoft Spot Watch dead on 2008-04-23; and newer reincarnations like the Pebble have been met with mediocre success. While things like the Nike Fuel Band or the FitBit have been out for a while, they don’t quite fit the intended paradigm. They’re only a small part of the picture; and I’ll get to why shortly.

According to ComputerWorld, “Wearable computing is about augmenting your whole life and taking advantage of fast-improving Internet services without being glued to a screen all day.” This is only partially right. It’s more about the ecosystem the wearable tech is compatible with and (more importantly) the services you subscribe to and use with that wearable tech.  Because, if the companies involved can’t lock you in and/or sell you services related to the tech… what’s the point?

Your smartphone is going to end up becoming the hub or, mobile router if you will, in a personal area network or PAN that goes where you go. It lives within an ecosystem providing access to multimedia content, apps and connectivity that can be consumed, projected; and where all of the related data will be initially cached before moving on to permanent storage in the cloud. You consume it all – you guessed it – on the wearable tech.

Your mobile carrier will allow you to communicate as you do today, but not via voice calls.  Think VoIP.  You’re going to have devices that all interconnect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and trade information back and forth, all at the same time.  Your Nike Fuel Band or FitBit will likely be replaced by a shirt or other piece of clothing that can display states of your workout, right on your sleeve or pant leg. Built in, washable sensors keep stats on your vitals and accomplishments as you continue to work out. You’ll pay – reasonable, nominal fees – for the tech, the apps, and the connected services. Vendors make money not on the tech per sell, but on the (licensing or reciprocal agreements and) services that you use and consume.

Wearable tech is all about integrating technology into your everyday life, and about selling the services that make it transparent.  This is why the iWatch (or whatever Apple’s gonna call it) and other items like the FitBit or Fuel Band are (at least initially) a big deal. The better job they do on catching on, the better chance the rest of the genre will have, and the less work vendors will have to do in selling the concept to the general public.

In my opinion, for this to work, wearable tech is going to have to be ecosystem and smartphone agnostic.  It’s going to need to work with every ecosystem and every “modern” smartphone, without issue, and without missing any “critical features.”

What I’m most concerned about at this point, is how carriers and hardware manufacturers respond to the “agnostic” requirement.  They don’t tend to be very supported of interoperability or sharing their networks and other services with those that don’t pay to play. I’m hoping by the time this really takes hold, carriers understand that they are a utility and not much more.

What do YOU think? Is your smartphone going to become a mobile router? As network speeds and liability improves will converged devices break up back into separate phones, music players and personal information managers or will that functionality melt away to something else more compelling?

Why don’t you sound off I the comments below and let me know what you think?

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Get and read email with Opera Mail

opera-mail-iconGet and read email with this full-featured mail client for Windows.

August 2013 seems to be mail client month. I think I’ve looked at three in the past few weeks.  That should tell you how important mail clients still are in the computing world.  Email isn’t going the way of the dodo, and having a good app to get, organize and read mail is important, especially if you aren’t into Outlook.  That’s one of the big reasons why you might be interested in looking long and hard at Opera Mail. It’s an email client for Windows.

Opera Mail is a cool way to check mail.  Its elegant tabs allow you to view multiple messages at once and navigate between them with ease. Messages can be grouped into threads which help you organize your mail.  You can keep up with the context of any mail thread, and quickly view previous messages in the conversation.


Opera Mail also supports labels.  They allow you to sort your messages quickly. All of these organizational tools allow you to take control of your inbox and set simple rules to sort mail automatically.

Opera Mail’s also has a built-in RSS feed reader provides automatic notification of updates to your favorite websites. In the absence of Google Reader, having the ability in Opera Mail isn’t bad, and gives you a decent way of finding and organizing RSS data in a way that’s easy to read.

Opera Mail is a decent application. Its easy to use and goes a long way to helping you organize your inbox and mail accounts.  The biggest issue with it, however, is that it doesn’t handle calendar data.  It may handle contacts within the app, but this is not a full PIM app.  Its unfortunate, as it would have been a much better app with that level of support.

download Opera Mail

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