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New Soul

posted in Tech Talk on November 14th, 2008

A couple of months ago, I woke up to a a world of hurt: a bad cough and a busted graphics in an aging laptop.

Having faced an identical busted graphics card problem about a year before, too, I knew that repairing my rig would cost me approximately $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the availability of the items that are needed and the amount of man hours required to replace the parts.

While my Toshiba Tecra M4 has served me very well, I am not crazy enough about it to invest such a sum into a device that is 2.5 years old and quite honestly: who would, besides NASA.

The downside of my decision is that I have been laptop-less for close to six months now and since my Tablet PC acted as my primary computing platform, I am actually finding myself in a position where I get less work done in more time, simply due to the lack of adequate processing power.

Before I set out on my trip to the US, I was eying a couple of devices, such as the Asus EEE PC and even though I do not consider myself a geek, just being able to say that I built a web application with the help of the hottest sub notebook currently available, would have been a fun idea.

From a prosumer point of view, however, the EEE PC is definitely not able to cater for all my wishes and as such would not have been much than a secondary backup, computer as opposed to being my (primary) weapon of choice and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued.

Every few years in my computer life, I come to a point, call it a crossroads if you wish; a point where I decide to (radically) alter the way I go about doing things and go in directions I have not gone before, mostly in an effort to make my computing experience more pleasurable, but also: more efficient.

Seven years ago, this meant going the Pocket PC route and I have not regretted this one bit. Five years ago, it meant foraying down the Symbian Smartphone route, then back to Pocket PCs again.

This, eventually, lead to flirting with a Windows Mobile Smartphone, which worked well, due to its form-factor, but essentially changed my mobile computing habits from “creating” to “reading”, in other words: my productivity dropped, so back to Pocket PCs it was, once again.

During that period, I also ventured into the area of Tablet PCs, a technology that appeared interesting to me on a number of levels, mostly due to the fact that it altered the way I would be using my device henceforth.

After having used a Tablet PC for 2.5 years and having followed the scene since literally Day One, I can, wholeheartedly say that I did my best to accept it, love it and not hate it, but it just did not work out the way I hoped it would.

The applications that were killer and hot two years ago, are still the same ones that are hot today because, all in all, the Tablet PC ecosystem has not nearly seen as much influx as everyone predicted.

Their impact on the market is, still, negligible at best: Tablets are used by medical professionals and a few other niche areas, but for me, there is no future in this platform and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued, once again.

I knew that my next device, like my aging Tablet PC, would have to be a true Desktop replacement, because switching devices AND keeping them in sync all the time gets annoying really quick.

Another thing I require from my device is that it just works, in the sense that I do not have to install extra software when I hook up a projector, or, even worse: reinstall my whole operating system, because neither the built-in display adapter nor the external display provide me with any (visual) feedback whatsoever.

Naturally, just having a device that works is not all I want, I also wanted to try something new, venture into, for me, uncharted territory, so to speak. The last time around, this ended up being a Tablet PC, which basically was just an extension to the current operating system I was using at the time, this time around, I am inclined to switch operating systems too.

All in all, and more importantly, to bring this story an end, I have decided, that the best I could make is Apple’s new MacBook Pro and I am looking forward to, as one friend called it, experience that working with your computer can actually be fun.

Of course, while I made the decision on my own, I feel that there are two people I should thank, for putting up with my geekness during this trying time:

First and foremost, my biggest thanks go out to Nate Nelson who helped me put together my order, helped me change it, helped me order more stuff and even got me some nice extras to play with, thanks bro’!

Secondly, Kevin Pilasky for devoting the last three plus years of his life to make me consider and try out the OS X platform and finally have the guts to move to, and I quote: the system that will work for you!

* for the Apple fanboys who scuff at the mention of “New Soul” in combination with a MacBook Pro, I am sorry, I know the song is meant to be used for the MacBook Air, but it was just too tempting.

Repurposed Silicone (Proporta.com Silicone case for XDA Flame)

posted in Reviews on August 13th, 2007

When the first Pocket PCs and Smartphones hit the market, it was obvious that they were targeted at managers and other professionals that needed to have access to a mobile computing platform that was not as cumbersome to carry around as a notebook. It was obvious because of the price that was attached to the devices and because of the type of cases that were available…

Cowhides versus cosmetic surgery left-overs

Managers and the likes often have leather briefcases, leather wallets and would, obviously, also be looking for leather cases for their mobile devices. And since most markets are willing to adopt the demand and supply basics, you will be able to find a great amount of eTailers and retailers with the best in leather cases.

Me, personally, I am not much of a leather guy and as such, I would rather see my device covered in some high tech material as opposed to a piece of dead animal. While searching for an adequate case for my XDA Flame, I came across Proporta’s Silicone Case.

mostly-identical twins

The first thing you notice when you open the package from Proporta, is the complimentary English Breakfast Tea. A small but nonetheless kind gesture if you ask me and also one of the reason I keep ordering stuff at Proporta.

Installing the case is very easy. In fact, Proporta considers the installation so easy, that they did not even include a manual. While making a remark about that, I was told that “even a baby could install it without a manual” and I guess that that is true, but still, a short leaflet with some basic information on how to install and care for an installed case would have been great.

XDA Flame Silicone Case

 

From left to right, the case has the exact same visual layout as the device itself. The case itself comes in a black that matches the device very well, but also has a slight downside: other than the D-pad, you will not be able to see the back light of the buttons, so operating your device during low light conditions might be harder, especially if you have trouble remembering the button layout. Other silicone cases from Proporta come in a white-to-transparent color and with those cases, the back lit keys make more sense.

XDA Flame, meet James Bond

On a brighter point (no pun intended), the case features all the cut outs you will need to keep using your device. As you can see here and here, Proporta did a great job on re-creating the whole layout, both with the buttons, as well as with the cut outs.

However, the cut outs do not stop at the various ports or camera openings, but also include the two locks to the left and right (mostly used for car holders, I believe), the stylus as well as the front-side camera and status LEDs. You can sync and charge your device and even use the IR port while it is in the case with no problem at all.

See me, feel me

The silicone case feels good and I am sure that this is not related to the fact that I am male, but rather to the texture of the whole product. The case sits in your palm nicely and will not slide out unless you loosen your grip on it.

The Pocket PC inside the case is protected from all sides, except for the screen. While this is not really a downside of the case itself, I would still recommend getting a screen protector for your device, to make the protection complete.

Proporta calls that case “a way to protect your device from dust and scratches” and after a week of putting my device in some dusty, though not dirty, places, I can vouch for this claim.

Hot or not?

Considering all, the Proporta XDA Flame Silicone case is a great product. For $20, this product will protect your device from (soft) impacts and scratches. You will end up with a Pocket PC that, in essence, still looks the same and has the same usability as before, only that now it is protected in a stylish silicone case.

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Urban Armor for your Personal Assistant (invisibleSHIELD Screenprotector for XDA Flame)

posted in Reviews on August 3rd, 2007

In today’s high-speed world, time seems to be one of the things we only have available in short supply. As the old saying goes, haste does indeed make waste. Applied to mobile technology, the kind of waste you do not want to make is scratches, because for one, it lowers the market value of your device but more importantly, it looks horrible and has the potential to make you unhappy.

Devices with a semi-large screen, such as iPods, digital cameras and especially, Pocket PCs, mostly because of their touchscreens, are prone to scratches, so you need to find a solution that will allow you to keep your display in pristine condition.

While researching screen protectors, I came across a company called ZAGG, makers of the semi-famous invisibleSHIELD. The product is made from a material that was originally designed to protect helicopter blades at high velocities and supposedly is able to withstand the toughest of challenges.

Ch-ch-choices

ZAGG offers about 1000 different versions of their screen protector, but sadly, they did not have a version for my brand-new O2 XDA Flame right away. What they do have though, is a custom order service where you can get a custom-built screen protector for your device. This premium service, however, will cost you an additional $4.95, which is not really that much, if you consider the merits of a screen protector.

After a couple of emails and submitting some hi-res pictures of my device’s screen, I was told that the team at ZAGG created a set of screen protectors for me (and my device) and that they were shipped my way.

Application Form

A couple of days later, I received a shipment from ZAGG with my new screen protectors and immediately went to install them. I have used quite a few screen protectors in the past and have come across many different ways of applying these plastic sheets, but, to date, I have not come across a company that immersed themselves as much into the installation process as the guys from ZAGG do.

For example, to combat stains and fingerprints on the inside of the screen protector, the manual recommends that you cover your fingertips with the included application spray. A simple solution, yes, but one that I have not come across until now. Gotta give them a thumbs up for their thoughtfulness in this case.

In case you are not interested in reading the manual, just head on over to the Shieldzone and watch the installation video. The video was actually made for iPods, but the general steps are the same for any device you use.

Applying the shield, with or without the manual, in my case, was pretty easy. What I liked best was the lack of any bubbles but one, that, thankfully, aligned itself to the right side of the screen. Using the included squeegee, I was able to get rid of it mostly during my first try and the remaining part seemed to disappear by itself after a couple of hours.

One hint from me here: The manual recommends that you give the invisibleSHIELD a full 24 hours to set. To be honest, I know that many people will find it hard to be without their devices for that long, but in the end, believe me when I say that it is worth it. If you have bubbles, there is a good chance that some of them

Quality Assurance

After applying the invisibleSHIELD and giving it some time to get comfy on my device’s screen, I decided to run some color-testing to see how the screen protector would affect the color display. Since I already had covered the whole display on my new Pocket PC, I decided to use my trusty Qtek 9090 as a guinea pig for this one.

Take a second and then, take a real good look good at this image right here: one side is covered with a piece of invisibleSHIELD, the other is not. I will let you be the judge on which one is what…

While I believe the above image to speak volumes, let me assure you that it is, indeed, safe to call the invisibleSHIELD next-to-invisible. Once the plastic has “merged” with your device (FYI: it does not really merge, you can still safely remove it) the screen protector is very hard to spot, unless you look at the corners, of course.

Using the stylus on the invisibleSHIELD is not unlike using it with other screen protectors. The stylus does not stick to the cover and the invisibleSHIELD is thin enough to not off-set your stylus aim and, but you can still somehow tell that something is there.

The Lowdown

In conclusion, I can tell you that the invisibleSHIELD is, indeed, a shield. Once applied, it protects your device’s screen from scratches and nasty fingerprints and yet does not influence the display quality in any way, if at all, the display actually gets a little more readable outside.

If you ask me, the invisibleSHIELD is like the guys from 300. Whereas the invisibleSHIELD is like Ancient Sparta and scratches are like the Ancient Persians. You can figure the rest out for yourself…