phone: 814.881.5882  |  email: kristin@kristinlynch.com

technotes

My old Linksys headphones were seeing much less use, mostly because they couldn't hold a charge very long, and less so because the ear thingies kept falling off. The sound quality was OK, but nothing to tweet about.

Not having a good set of headphones wasn't a big deal - until I realized it was causing me to work away from home less often. I always use my headphones when I'm working on my laptop in public. And I get some of my best work done when I'm working somewhere other than home - such as Panera Bread.

Don't get me wrong. I love working from home. But sometimes I need to really concentrate on nothing but work and working at home can have its own challenges and distractions. I will often work at home with the TV off, no music, sleeping cats - all I should need for a conducive work environment. But other distractions can arise - noisy neighbors, phone calls, cats flying across the room playing and running around the house, a thousand and one other things that need to be done around here. When I work away from home, in spite of the other obvious distractions of working in public, there's nothing else to do BUT work, and sometimes that's exactly what I need in order to get things done.

So I needed a new pair of headphones.

I was primarily looking for something with great sound and battery life, with features like wireless and comfort also being very important. I'm not a big fan of the ear buds. I used to think I must just be an oddball because buds hurt my little ear holes¹, but then noticed a lot of similar complaints on the Internet and a larger selection of non-bud earphone products. I'm obviously not alone. I've had several pairs of headphones over the years from a variety of different brands (Sony, Linksys, Motorola, etc.) so I think I know what to expect in terms of quality and price.

I found a great set at Best Buy - Rocketfish Bluetooth HD stereo headphones. I like the Rocketfish brand and when presented with the opportunity to buy one of their products, I'll willingly spend the extra cash. I have yet to be disappointed in the quality of their products - from HDMI and Ethernet cables, to media readers and other small computer-related peripherals. Surprisingly, these headphones were only $60 - much less than you'll find with other similar quality headphones. AND, you can answer phone calls with them too. This feature alone makes this product even more impressive at this price.

Here are the specs for the Rocketfish™ Mobile - RF-MAB2 High-Definition Stereo Bluetooth Headphones (borrowed from Best Buy's web site):

What's Included

•    Rocketfish™ Mobile Bluetooth High-Definition Stereo Headphones
•    USB charging cable
•    AC adapter
•    Owner's manual

Product Features

•    Compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, MP3 players and other audio devices - with a stereo A2DP Bluetooth profile for wide-ranging compatibility.
•    Comfortable behind-the-head design
 - with foam ear pads for a comfortable fit.
•    4 high-definition audio settings
 - deliver enhanced audio quality for customizable listening.
•    Up to 14 hours of use per charge - along with up to 340 hours of standby time for extended use.

What I like most so far:

1. The product feels comfortable. The molded ear thingies¹ fit well and don't get lost since they're not separate attachments. You wear them behind your head so they're out of your way².

2. The sound quality is phenomenal. When I test sound quality, I generally use songs by The Beatles since I'm very familiar with every nuance of most songs. I tested the headphones first using the intro to 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' since it starts with crowd noise and then blends into the music. 'A Day in the Life' is another song I like to use for testing - lots of different sounds at different ranges and levels. These headphones picked up everything I expected to hear very clearly. Even better? You can choose between 4 HD settings. I tried them all and can see where I might switch from one to another based on what I'm listening to, but they all sound great. I'm sorry, but I'm not a sound expert so I can't speak the lingo and give you anything more scientific other than 'they sound great'.

3. The device holds a charge for days, not minutes. I don't have enough field test time yet to be able to tell you specifically how much time a charge will run - just that I've been impressed so far.

4. The controls are easy to use.  One set of rocker buttons handle play/pause and call answer, another set of rocker buttons handle fast forward or reverse (tap to skip, hold pressed to scan). Yet another set of rocker buttons handle volume up/down. 5. Easy setup. Sure, Bluetooth is supposed to be easy to set up. But with some products it can be a little frustrating. I paired this device with my iPhone and my MacBook Pro - total time less than 20 seconds.

What I don't like so far:

Nothing. These are a great set, and actually less expensive than I've seen in inferior products.

¹Yeah, OK so I can't remember what the actual term is for 'ear holes' and I'm too lazy to look it up.

²I laughed when I read the reviews for this product on Best Buy's web site. A few customers were ticked off because the headphones 'don't fit over their head very well and barely touch their ears', obviously not realizing that these are a behind-the-head design. Otherwise, the reviews are all very complimentary about the product.
Enhanced by Zemanta

New Verizon product reviews

posted by Kristin Lynch

Aug 04

Droid X A PR person at Verizon contacted me last week via email. She said she’s been reading my technotes blog and wondered if I’d be interested in reviewing their products and posting those reviews on my blog. It sounds like an interesting gig so I said ‘sure…why not?’

They’ll be sending me a new phone every so often to use for free for a few weeks (phone and data), putting it through its paces, finding out what’s intuitive and works well, and well…what doesn’t. Once I’m done, I’ll just send it back - on their dime, of course.

They don’t even seem to mind at all that I’m an iPhone user and not even a Verizon customer. We have Verizon phone service in my area but I use Vonage for my home phone and Time Warner Cable for my cable and Internet so I haven’t been a Verizon customer for the past 3-4 years.

Verizon sent me a Droid X within the past few days so that will be my first review. Look for it soon!
Enhanced by Zemanta

A week with the iPad

posted by Kristin Lynch

Apr 15

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
I spent about a month deciding whether or not I'd be plopping down some cash to buy an Apple iPad, then another few days listening to nerdy discussions about which version to buy - the WiFi version now available, or wait until the 3G version makes its appearance in late April. I opted to get the mid-range 32GB WiFi version.

My reasoning?

1. My experience with my MacBook Pro has been that I've almost always been able to connect via WiFi wherever I am.

2. I already have an unlimited access iPhone that's always with me so I'm never disconnected via 3G, and I really don't need to shell out any additional service fees to AT&T anyway. This model saved me about $250 over the 3G model I had previously considered.

3. It's probably just a matter of time before MiFi becomes more accessible and more reasonably priced.

4. The only time I'd likely suffer from a lack of WiFi coverage is on the road, and since I travel alone 99% of the time, I can't really use the device while I'm driving. Well, I COULD but that would be really stupid.

So what do I think of it so far? I love it. Reading books is great, typing takes a little to get used to, but the learning curve is no different than that of an iPhone or BlackBerry. The screen is beautiful, movies and games are more enjoyable. Some of my favorite cool iPhone apps have already been rebuilt beautifully for the iPad - making use of the large screen and space. Battery life is very impressive, and the device turns on instantly - there's no such thing as booting up.

I use a lot of book documentation for my work and now have about 16 of them in PDF version on my iPad. That alone is worth it to me. I don't have to carry my laptop around when I just want to read my PDFs, and they're very handily available docked next to my laptop while I code. I have several PowerPoint presentations I need to access regularly for an ongoing training project. Additionally, I have several software manuals saved there in PDF format for reference purposes.

The entertainment tools - photos, music, movies, games - are splendid. You have to try them yourself to get the full effect. I can't do it justice. New applications are being released for the device every day and many are very impressive.

Some favorites: GoodReader is a very nice document manager. The NetFlix application plays your streaming library. AirStudio accesses your home movie library over your WiFi network connection. Evernote - already a favorite Windows, Mac and iPhone application - is very impressive on the iPad. The iBook application is getting so much use when I go to bed that I'm losing sleep. Elements is a gorgeous way to present the periodic table. This application alone gives us an idea about the future of books and how we'll use information.

So far my friends' reactions have ranged from 'yeah hi where is it?', 'ooh slick....now I want one' to 'I still have no idea why I would need one but I kind of want one anyway'. I was asked to talk with a class of Mercyhurst College students recently about my career. I brought my iPad to show the instructor - a longtime friend and fellow geek, who immediately took a photo of it and sent it to his wife. The class was understandably more interested in seeing the device than hearing me blather on about myself, and they had some great questions. I've been asked about the inability to connect peripherals, and the likelihood of the iPad becoming a laptop replacement. My answer depends on who's asking. If you mainly use your computer for web surfing, e-mail, watching videos, listening to music and viewing photos, then this could become a great portable device for you. For heavy computer users like me, no - but it can be a great device for managing those tasks without needing to access your desktop or laptop.

As much as I enjoy the iPad, I have to believe that the real 'killer app' for the device hasn't even been released yet. An app is going to be released and consumers will say 'wow, OK now I know why I need an iPad.' I think we will see that day very soon.

Incidentally, I wrote this entire post on my iPad using the WordPress application.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...I've been a long-time movie service subscriber - all the way back to my subscription with Home Video Exchange in the early 1980s. Ah, VHS...how you sucked in comparison with what we have now, but how lucky we were to have you all those years ago.

Image via CrunchBase
current Blockbuster Online "Total Access&...Fast forward (ha...get it?) to the past 10 years and I've moved on to the online movie services. I know there are other services out there, but let's face it - Netflix and Blockbuster are the only services worth considering. I became a Netflix subscriber when the service first became available in 1997 and remained with them until Blockbuster Online launched in 2004 with their Total Access package. I had been pleased as punch with Netflix, but couldn't resist jumping ship with Blockbuster's in-store trade option.

Image via Wikipedia
The services were very similar otherwise - pricing, selection, etc. - with the obvious exception that Blockbuster had brick-and-mortar locations and Netflix was strictly online. Well, I just changed back to Netflix. Again, nothing wrong with Blockbuster. Both are great services, especially if you're a die-hard movie fan like me. So why did I switch again? Reverse to 2008 when I bought my 42" Sharp Aquos LCD TV and got a free Sharp blu-ray player as part of the deal. I began choosing more and more blu-ray movies since I had the option. Between my addiction to movies and Time Warner Cable's steady addition of more and more HD channels, I could no longer tolerate watching the NON-HD channels on my bedroom TV. I was getting free HD but only able to watch those channels in my living room. Blockbuster also recently changed their policy on rentals and in-store trades. They previously allowed you to get unlimited in-store trades, but reduced this to 3 in-store trades per month if you were on the 2 movies at a time plan (like me). They also changed how the in-store trades worked. Previously, you could only keep those out for up to 7-days (plus grace period), following their normal in-store policy. When you returned one to the store, Blockbuster would recognize it as having been returned and you'd get your next film regardless of whether or not you chose an in-store trade. This worked fine for me. Recently they changed this to allow you to keep the in-store trade as long as you wanted, but wouldn't send out your next queued movies until you returned them. If that sounds confusing it's because it IS. I had to ask a couple of times I was in the store, and I realized this was two steps backwards for the customer. From a balance sheet perspective, I could understand why they made this change, but it left a bad taste in my mouth since it was confusing, lousy for the customers, and hadn't at ALL been communicated by the company. And yeah, I do receive their postal and e-mail newsletters. OK, so back to the TVs. I bought a 37" Samsung LCD TV and blu-ray player for my bedroom - not because of Blockbuster, but because of my increasing inability to watch anything NOT in HD. The Samsung blu-ray player includes a wireless feature if you buy the $80 USB adapter, and easy setup for connections to Netflix and Pandora.

Image via CrunchBase
Image representing Pandora as depicted in Crun...After setting up the blu-ray player to connect to my wireless network, I hopped on my MacBook Pro and activated my Pandora account (to connect to my existing Pandora account), put a 3-month hold on my Blockbuster Online account and re-activated my Netflix account. Within 2 minutes I was adding movies to my queue and chose several movies plus season one of '30 Rock' to my 'instant queue' and saw everything in my instant queue immediately appear on my TV. OK, so for a few dollars LESS than I was paying Blockbuster, I'm still getting 2 movies at a time via mail, no store trades which I was no longer using anyway, and lots of additional streamed content right to my bedroom TV. Even better, the 2 movies at a time deal doesn't affect my ability to stream and watch as much as I want. Before my first movie even showed up in the mail (2 days after signing up), I'd already watched 2 movies plus the entire first season of '30 Rock' right through my TV. By the way, as long as the items remain in your 'instant queue' you can watch them again, stop where you left off, pause, rewind, etc. So, if you're in the market for a blu-ray player, I'd highly recommend choosing one of the few that have this feature. Even though you'll need to pay for an adapter (once), you won't need to rent or buy the separate appliance(s) Netflix and other streaming services require. I also recommend this if you frequently rent entire seasons of TV shows, because traditionally you'd need to count each disk as a separate rental. Through Netflix, if your title is available streamed, you get all the shows at once and they don't count towards a physical rental. Feel free to ask questions. I've learned a lot about how this works!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Apple's latest offerings don't disappoint

Tablet

read more...

Newsletter Signup

Sign up to receive our free technology tips newsletter. We won't share your information.