Monday, December 31, 2012

QuickPro Camera Guides Nikon D5100 DVD Review

I'm still suffering from a bad cold so I didn't write a blog entry last week and this week, I decided to write a very short blog entry on a DVD. I received the QuickPro Camera Guides Nikon D5100 DVD for Christmas and after watching it, I thought that I would write a quick review on it.

Having my Nikon D5100 for about 1.5 years and still not using it to its full potential, I look for various books/DVDs/videos specifically on the Nikon D5100.

The DVD is divided into 10 chapters with each chapter covering a specific topic or topics on the Nikon D5100. The majority of this DVD shows the video presenter describing the Nikon D5100's various menu options and makes a few suggestions on what setting to use for various situations (sporting events, portraits, etc.). While a Nikon D5100 novice who might not have read the Nikon D5100 user's manual might find the information found in this DVD to be very good, I found it to be somewhat boring especially since I purchased 2 books that cover the Nikon D5100 in depth.

If you are someone who doesn't like reading through user's manuals or books on your specific camera model, you might find this DVD to be useful. However, I believe that you can probably find a lot of free informative videos online (such as on YouTube) which might be better.

I can't really recommend this DVD unless you are a complete novice to the Nikon D5100 and you are the type of person who doesn't like reading through the user's manual or reading any book. While this DVD might make a great gift with the Nikon D5100, as a standalone gift/purchase, I can't really recommend it since I found the information to be very dry. Based on the suggested purchase price of this DVD, I would recommend a book specifically on the Nikon D5100 over this DVD.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dell Vostro 2420 Review

I've been taking care of a bad cough which is one of the reasons why I didn't write a blog entry last week. I'm still coughing but it isn't as bad as it was last week so I've decided to resume my blog entries.

A friend asked me to install Windows on his Dell Vostro 2420. The version that he purchased had Ubuntu 11.10 pre-installed on it. I got the chance to test it out for a few hours before reformatting it and installing Windows on it.

Hardware-wise, the Vostro 2420 sports a 14" screen and is about twice the thickness of my Samsung Chromebook. It is roughly the same thickness as my Acer Netbook (but obviously larger). It has a full-size keyboard (minus the numeric keypad). I find the keyboard to be quite good and I like the fact that it is easy to clean since the space between keys is "filled" so hair and dirt/dust can't easily slip inside the keyboard (and it is just a simple matter of vacuuming the keyboard). The trackpad is also very responsive.

The Dell Vostro comes with an HDMI port, 3 USB ports, a VGA port, and ethernet network port, a DVD-RW drive, an earphone/microphone jack, a built-in webcam, and an SD/MMC/MS memory card slot. I tested out the HDMI port on my HD television and it works very well, although with the resolution set on the laptop, part of display didn't appear on my television set. I've also tested the wireless connection and I found that it worked very well. The version that my friend purchased came with an Intel Core i3 CPU so it was relatively fast with Ubuntu 11.10 as well as when I reformatted it and installed Windows 7 on it.

The system boots up fast in Linux. I didn't get a chance to test out all the features of the Ubuntu 11.10 operating system but I didn't have any issues with it nor did I have any issues configuring it to work with my wireless router.

When booting up the system initially, it would go through a set-up and then prompt you to save a recovery disk. I opted to do this onto a USB thumbdrive and found that it worked well. I tested reformatting the machine with the USB thumbdrive and didn't experience any problems.

After trying the Ubuntu 11.10 for about 1 hour, I reformatted the laptop and installed Windows 7 onto it. The Windows 7 installation was very straightforward. After the system rebooted with Windows 7 installed, it didn't detect a few of the devices (video adapter, sound card, network card, wireless, & chipset). This was all available on Dell's website. For this laptop model, Dell has the drivers for Windows 7 (32bit & 64bit), Ubuntu, and Windows 8 (32bit & 64bit). The entire installation (with the drivers) took under 1 hour. What took long was downloading all of Microsoft's updates (I didn't time this and it would depend on the network speed as well as the version of Windows 7 that is being used for the installation but I would estimate that it took 1.5 hours to download/install all the Microsoft updates).

I used the laptop for a few hours with Windows 7 installed on it and I found it to be very fast/responsive. Since there was nothing installed on the laptop (excluding the operating system, the drivers, and a few standard applications that I installed for my friend (Adobe Flash, Acrobat Reader, HP Officejet Pro 8600 drivers/files (since he has the same printer as I do), and Google Chrome), I didn't really expect it to be slow.

In the short time that I used the laptop, I find it to be very good. I don't know how much my friend paid for it but the price will determine whether I would recommend it or not.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kobo Mini Review

I purchased a Kobo Mini on sale during the Black Friday weekend sale last week and I've been using it for a few days (enough so that I can write a review about the product). Even though I use my various tablets (Android tablet, Acer Iconia Tab A100 Android tablet, & HP TouchPad) and my various phones to read my PDF documents/books, I heard good things about the dedicated e-readers so I decided to purchase the Kobo Mini when it went on sale.

Since I had a lot of PDF documents/books, I wanted to be sure that whatever e-reader that I purchased would accommodate the PDF file format. The Kobo Mini specifications mention that it does support PDF.

After charging my Kobo Mini, when I turned it on, the first thing that it asked me is what language I wanted. It then asked me whether I wanted to configure it using a computer or whether I wanted to configure it using the wireless connection. I opted for the wireless connection. It then asked me to configure the date/time/timezone and then prompted me to connect to my wireless network. Because of the added security of my wireless network, I did have some problems with connecting to my wireless router but most people won't have an issue. The one thing that I did find difficult was typing my password on the Kobo Mini touchscreen. The touchscreen is not particularly sensitive (not as sensitive as on any of my smartphones or my tablets) and it sometimes required pressing the screen multiple times for a single letter.

After connecting to my wireless network, it automatically detected that there was an update available and it proceeded to download the update and update my device. The entire update process took ~15 minutes. Once it finished updating, my Kobo Mini rebooted and I was prompted again for whether I wanted to configure the device using the wireless connection on via a direct connection to my computer. I opted again for the wireless connection and I had to re-enter my wireless connection password. Although I only had 2 books available to me on my Kobo account, I then connected to my Kobo account and the 2 books downloaded via wireless to my Kobo Mini.

In order to transfer my PDF documents/books to my Kobo Mini, I connected my Kobo Mini to my computer. The Kobo Mini then appeared on my computer (similar to an external hard drive) and I dragged/dropped my PDF documents/books onto my Kobo Mini (without placing them into any subdirectory). After doing that, I "ejected" the Kobo USB device from my computer and removed the USB cable from my computer as well as from my Kobo Mini. The Kobo Mini then processed the files that I dropped onto it and within a few seconds I saw my PDF documents/books on my Kobo Mini's home screen.

The Kobo Mini displays the 2 Kobo ePub books from my Kobo account very well. The font is large enough to be readable. However, I find that because of the size of the Kobo Mini, it doesn't really do that great of a job with my PDF documents/books. The font size is extremely small. Even though I can still read it without magnifying the font/page (which the Kobo Mini does allow you to do), I prefer reading the PDF documents/books on my HP TouchPad because of the larger size or on my Acer Iconia A100 Android Tablet.

In proper lighting (similar to the amount of light you would need to read any real book), the Kobo ePub books are extremely easy to read and easy on the eyes because of the e-ink.

I find the speed at which the pages turn on the Kobo Mini to be somewhat slow. It is faster with the Kobo ePub books than with my PDF documents/books but I still find it to be somewhat slow with both.

The Kobo Mini also has 3 applications in the "Extra" menu within Settings (a sudoku game, a sketch pad, and an extremely limited web browser). I can't really recommend any of these. The browser is extremely slow and limited to the point of being frustrating since for example, it required me to entire the URL for my blog about 10 times before it finally went to my blog. The sketch pad will allow you to draw/doodle on the Kobo Mini's touchscreen and save what you've done but once saved, the only way of deleting the PNG image is to connect the Mini to your computer and then manually delete the file using your computer. I can't really comment on the sudoku game since I don't play sudoku.

All in all, I would say that the Kobo Mini is okay for the Black Friday sale price that I paid for it. I would not purchase the device at its regular price of ~$80+taxes. The 5" screen is too small for reading of PDF documents/books but fine for the Kobo books that I've previewed. The Kobo Mini is extremely light (obviously lighter than my ~10" screen-size of my HP TouchPad or the ~7" screen-size of my Acer Iconia A100 tablet). It is also lighter (or feels lighter) than any of my smartphones. The battery life is also very good. The 2 things that I find lacking is the speed of the device and the responsiveness of the touchscreen when using the virtual on-screen keyboard.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave your question/comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Monday, November 26, 2012

HP Touchstone Charging Dock (for the HP TouchPad) Review

I managed to pick up an HP Touchstone Charging Dock (for the HP TouchPad) at a deeply discounted price during this past weekend  ("Black Friday" weekend sale) in Canada. Considering that the HP TouchPad was discontinued a long time ago and I still use mine mainly for reading PDF documents and checking my e-mail/Facebook (and watching YouTube videos), I didn't mind spending some money to get the HP Touchstone. I believe that the manufacturer's suggested regular price for the HP Touchstone Charging Dock when it was originally released (and HP had not decided to stop producing/selling their HP TouchPad) was $40.

The HP Touchstone Charging Dock looks like a typical stand for any tablet but it includes a USB cable which plugs specifically into the HP USB AC adapter (cylinder-shaped adapter). The USB cable must be plugged into the HP USB AC adapter and not to a computer or a laptop's USB port.

The charging unit works using a method called inductive charging. In order to charge the HP TouchPad, all the consumer has to do is place the HP TouchPad on the charging dock. You don't have to "plug" the HP TouchPad onto the HP Touchstone Charging Dock. Once the HP TouchPad is firmly on the HP Touchstone Charging Dock, the HP TouchPad will start to charge and within a minute or so, the date/time will appear on the HP TouchPad's display screen. There are 3 date/time themes so you can pick the one that you prefer.There are other themes that can be selected like a Facebook collage or for your HP TouchPad to scroll through pictures/images from your device.

In the short time that I've been using the HP Touchstone Charging Dock, I haven't tested whether the HP TouchPad takes takes longer to charge when it is on the dock as opposed to when it is plugged in directly to the USB cable. If it does take longer, it isn't a lot longer.

Having a charger at home (charger that came with my HP TouchPad) and having a charger at work (the HP Touchstone Charging Dock) is a big convenience since I use my HP TouchPad to read PDF documents/books.

If you have any questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender (WN3000RP) Review

I got the opportunity to test the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender (WN3000RP) and since there were a few deadspots within my place and slightly outside of my place, I decided to give it a try. This universal WiFi range extender supports B, G, and N routers.

To configure the device you have to locate (or roughly locate the half-way point of the range for your wireless router) and plug the extender near this "half-way point." You would then connect to the extender and configure it to access your router. After doing this, you can then configure your devices to access the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender either via the 1 ethernet port on the device or via WiFi. I've tested it using the network cable (hard-wired) connection and I found that it was "okay" (not great but not what I would consider bad either).

My problem with the device isn't really a problem with the device itself but my place doesn't seem to be ideal for such a device. The reason for this is that there is no power outlet at the half-way point between where my wireless router is situated and where I have a very weak wireless signal. As a result, I have to plug the WiFi Range Extender somewhat close to the wireless router. Because of the distance between the WiFi Range Extender and my wireless router is only about 5 feet, the improvement in the wireless signal near my deadspot/weakspot is not that big of an improvement.

The extender documentation mentions that if both the extender is detected and the wireless router is detected by your wireless device (and the wireless router signal strength is decent), it is preferable to connect to the wireless router since the speed of the extender is slower than the speed that can be obtained from the wireless router.

In terms of whether I can recommend this device, I guess it would depend on whether you have a power outlet near the half-way point of your desired deadspot/weakspot and the wireless router. If you do have a power outlet located in the proper place, I think that this device is a good buy if you can find it on sale.

If you have an questons/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will be automatically flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Unblock-Us Review (Part 2)

Based on the number of hits and interest from my previous post/review regarding Unblock-Us as well as some of the changes made to the service, I felt that it was worthy of another blog entry.

Unblock-Us for people unfamiliar with the service allows users to circumvent certain geographical IP location websites/services (such as Netflix, Pandora, etc.). I use it mainly to enhance my Netflix subscription since as of the date of this blog entry, it gives me access to the Netflix content of 9 additional countries. However, I have also used their service to try out Pandora or to access videos from certain US based television websites (NBC, ABC, CBS, Star Trek, etc.) which only allow people located in the US (with US IP addresses) to watch/access.


The current list of 10 countries are US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. You must be an active subscriber to Netflix in order to use Unblock-Us to gain the Netflix content in the other countries. It does not give you access to Netflix if you are not a paid subscriber.

Unblock-Us does not rely on installing any software. There is software that can be installed if you want to automate the IP registration process but installing/using the software is not necessary.

How the service works is that you modify the DNS settings for either your individual device or for your entire network (i.e. your router). You would then log onto Unblock-Us and register your IP address. You have to do this once every time your external IP address changes. If you've configured your router to access Unblock-Us' DNS servers, you would just go to Unblock-Us' website and activate/register your IP address. All your devices on the network will then use Unblock-Us' DNS servers as long as they are connected to the same router.

The instructions are somewhat similar to configuring an individual device except that you will have to manuall configure the DNS server settings on this device to use Unblock-Us' DNS servers and then access Unblock-Us' website on this device in order to activate/register your IP address.

You would then access the website as I normally would and instead of getting a message that the content is not available in my country/region, the video would play. For example, using Unblock-Us' service, I am able to watch video from NBC without getting a message stating that the video is not available in my country/region.

To use their service with Netflix, you would basically follow the same instructions but when you access Unblock-Us' website, you would also specify which country's Netflix content you want to watch. After doing this (if your router is configured to use Unblock-Us), all your devices will attempt to show the Netflix content from the country that you've selected. I use the term "will attempt" because I did experience issues with my LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 accessing Netflix when the country setting on Unblock-Us was set to anything other than Canada or the US. I didn't have any issues viewing the other country's Netflix content when using my Android phone, my iPhone 3GS, my Chromebook, my Windows computer/netbook/laptop, or my Android tablet.

The Unblock-Us service costs ~$5/month and based on my usage, I consider it to be worth the money. It isn't a VPN service so users who have VPN service to another country (ex: the US), might benefit from keeping their VPN service and also subscribing to Unblock-Us.

In terms of whether there is a big difference between Netflix's content in the 10 different countries that can be  chosen from Unblock-Us' website service, I will give a summary in an upcoming blog entry.

EDIT: To get the most out of Unblock-Us, please check out my blog entry on Monday January 7, 2013 (click *HERE*).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether or not it is embedded) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review

I had the good fortune to try out the Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise-Cancelling Headphones and I decided to write my latest blog on this product. As mentioned in my previous blog on headphones (the Nexxtech Wave Wireless Digital Stereo Headphones), I'm not an audiophile so as long as the headphones don't make clicking/hissing noises or distortion, I will probably not have any issues with the headphones if they serve their purpose (i.e. wireless headphones having decent distance and noise-cancelling headphones having the ability to block out background noise).

The moment I put on the Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise-Cancelling Headphones, it blocked out some of the noise similar to other headphones that cover the entire ears regardless of whether they are noise-cancelling headphones or not. Once I turned on the noise-cancelling switch I noticed a difference. However, the true test involves using it in an airplane, subway, train, or car where you get the constant low noise. During my trial, I tested it on an airplane (for a trip) as well as on the subway and I was amazed by its performance in blocking out the background noise so that I could hear my music. It really works and it works very well at reducing the constant background aircraft noise.

The only negative point that I can say about these headphones is the price. At a suggested retail price of around $350, unless you travel a lot and like to listen to your music while you travel (or watch the onboard videos/shows/movies while flying), it is one very expensive set of headphones.

A minor point is that the Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise-Cancelling headphones are powered by a AAA battery. I would have preferred that it was powered by a AA battery but that is just my personal preference.

The unit comes with a regular audio cable as well as an audio cable that allows for the easy control on select Apple devices such as on an iPhone or iPod. I tested this cable on my iPhone 3GS and I found that it worked well. However, the people whom I was speaking with noticed that I was using some sort of headphones or hands-free device. The headphones also come with an airline adapter plug as well as a very nice storage/travelling case.

For anyone who really wants a set of noise-cancelling headphones that works and has the money to spend on this unit, I have no problems recommending this unit. As mentioned, my only real negative comment is the price-tag which I find expensive for a set of headphones even a set of headphones of this quality.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment containing a URL link regardless of whether the link is embedded or not will be automatically flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Viber Application Review

I've been using Viber on both my Blackberry Bold 9700 and my Samsung Nexus-S for approximately 1 week and I thought that now was a good time to write a short review on it. Even though I installed/used the program both on my AndroidOS phone (Samsung Nexus-S) and m Blackberry phone (Bold 9700), the majority of my review is based on me using the program on my Blackberry since I was mainly looking for a cross-platform chat program since there were some things that I didn't like about Touch or Kik. Viber is also available for the iOS platform but unfortunately I wasn't able to install it on my iPhone 3GS because I haven't updated the OS in awhile and the version of Viber in the Apple Apps Store isn't compatible with the iOS version that I am still running on m iPhone 3GS.

Viber is a cross-platform phone OS application that allows for voice chat as well as text chat. On the Blackberry platform, it only allows for text chat. According to documentation on the company's website, there are plans to include voice chat capabilities to the Blackberry version of the program but based on the VoIP applications that I've used/tried on my Blackberry, I find it doubtful that it will include VoIP capabilities and if it does, I would expect that the sound quality to not be as good as what it is for the Android platform or the iOS platform.

What I like about Viber is that the registration process is very simple and works via the phone number that is registered as opposed to a username/userID. This makes it easy to add people (or know when people are using Viber) since you don't have to ask them for their username/userID. It also integrates with your phone's address book so that you are notified if anyone in your addressbook is using Viber. If someone has you in their address book (and they have Viber) but you don't have that person in our address book, he/she won't appear as a Viber user in our Viber application.

Registration occurs via SMS or in case your mobile phone isn't capable of receiving SMS (because it is blocked), you can also register the program by receiving an automated voice call. I've tested both and both work without any issues. With the SMS registration option, you receive an SMS on your phone indicating a 4 digit code which you must enter into the Viber program. With the automated voice call option, your phone will ring and you will received an automated message with a 4 digit code that you must enter into the Viber program. In cases of installs/uninstalls, you can only register the phone number twice within a 24 hour period and the application will only work on 1 phone at a time (with the same phone number). If installing onto a second phone and if you were to use the same phone number, Viber would automatically unregister the first phone from its system.

Something else that I like about Viber is that because it integrates with your address book is that the person's name in Viber (if they obviously have Viber installed on their phone) will appear exactly as it does in our address book. It is your phone so why should your contact be able to specify what name/nickname appears on your phone.

Whenever one of the people in your address book install (or have Viber) installed on their cellphone, you will receive a message that they have Viber installed on their device. Some people might have privacy concerns regarding this notification. I don't have any problem with this notification because the contacts will only receive a notification regarding the fact that I've installed Viber if I'm already in their address book so they would already have my contact information and be able to contact me irregardless of whether I had Viber installed or not.

There was a brief problem during my testing period with the text chat on my Blackberry. According to the company's Facebook page, this was due to a problem with the server (Amazon) that they were using but all in all I find the text chat to be very good.

In terms of the VoIP capabilities of the program on my Android phone, I haven't really tested this but it allows you to voice chat only with people in your contacts and does not call phone numbers via VoIP. Because the VoIP capabilities/quality of the call would not only depend on your internet bandwidth/quality but also on the internet bandwidth/quality of the person you're speaking with, for the time being, I don't really have a need for this. I use other phone applications that are 100% VoIP and call actual phone numbers using the internet which doesn't rely on whether the person I'm calling has a data plan or is connected to the internet via WiFi.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will be automatically flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

TrueCrypt Encryption Program/Software Review

Along with the encryption program that I wrote about last week (Axcrypt), I also use another free (open-source) encryption program called TrueCrypt.

What I use TrueCrypt for is to encrypt an entire partition, storage device, or to create a virtual encrypted disk within a file that mounts as a real disk. For Windows laptops/netbooks, I use TrueCrypt to encrypt the entire Windows partition (as well as any partition containing data files). I find TrueCrypt to be very useful because if I happen to lose your laptop/desktop (or it is stolen), all the information on my hard drive is password protected and even if the person removes the hard drive and attempts to read the information as a secondary hard drive off another machine, without TrueCrypt and the password, the contents of that hard drive are virtually irretrievable. This is perfect when saving/storing personal files like tax slips, etc. when I didn't get a chance to encrypt the file individually.

After the partition, storage device, or virtual encrypted disk is unencrypted, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the device whether on the computer itself or via the network. For example, once an entire storage device is unencrypted (such as an external USB drive), if this drive is on the network (and is shared), any device/computer will have access to the contents of this external USB drive as long as not unmounted or the computer is not shutdown/rebooted. The same thing holds true to encrypting the computer's entire hard drive. Once the computer boots up and the initial TrueCrypt password is entered, the files are completely accessible to anyone who has access to the files on the computer (if these files are shared or these files are accessed by a third party program (or person) via the internet). This means that even if you encrypt your entire hard drive but you don't configure your router, computer's firewall or fileshare properties correctly, the contents of your files might still wind up in someone else's hands. If these files are not encrypted (such as using Axcrypt), the person will have access not only to the file but will have access to the contents of the file.

TrueCrypt is available for Windows, MacOSX, and Linux. I've only used it on the Windows platform (Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) and I've never had any issues with it.

Using TrueCrypt or any encryption program on the entire hard drive or on an entire partition does slow down the computer a little bit but I've never noticed any real difference. Any difference is in speed is under 1 second in my opinion (for example, launching Microsoft Word might take a fraction of a second longer but I would say that most people would hardly notice any difference).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Axcrypt Encryption Program/Software Review

I've been using encryption software for a few years and there are 2 free programs that I use almost all the time. One of those programs is called Axcrypt.

Encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key or passphrase/password. Depending on how strong the encryption is, anyone with access to the encrypted file but without the key or passphrase/password will basically have a "useless" file.

I use a lot of cloud storage or online free storage sites for backup purposes (such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, and Skydrive) and when I want to store sensitive/private/personal files such as tax slips, tax receipts, etc., I find that it is a prudent to encrypt these files before storing them on the internet (or even saving them on my computer). Anyone with access to these files would require my key file and passphrase in order to view the contents of the file.

A key-file is an extra means of protection that some encryption programs support which offers a second level of protection whereby if someone manages to guess your passphrase/passcode, the file is still not usable without a specific file (key-file). This key file is needed to decrypt your file so that it is readable and is used when you encrypt your file. However, using a key-file does carry some risk and that is if you lose the key file or the key file becomes corrupt, your encrypted file is basically useless and the contents are almost irretrievable. Using key-files are great if you have/keep a copy of your key-file on a USB drive and you use a lot of different computers where some of the computers might have keylogging software installed on them. Keylogging software will capture the passphrase that you are using to encrypt/decrypt a particular file but the passphrase is useless without the key-file. Just like someone who manages to get access to your passcode/passphrase but doesn't have access to your key-file won't be able to access the contents of your encrypted file, someone who manages to get a copy of your key-file but doesn't know the passphrase that you used to encrypt a specific file won't have access to the contents of that file.

Axcrypt is a file encryption program for Microsoft Windows. I've used it on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 without any issues. What I like about Axcrypt is that it supports right-click integration with Windows Explorer and it also supports double-click integration which makes it as easy to open, edit and save protected files as it is to work with unprotected files. Something else that I like about Axcrypt is that there is also a standalone program that does not require installation (and can be kept on a USB memory drive) which will allow you to encrypt and decrypt files where you don't have the proper access to the computer to install any programs.

With the right-click integration, I can basically right click on any file and then click on Axcrypt in the shortcut menu and I am able to encrypt the file (or decrypt it), shred/delete the file, or encrypt a copy of the file (among other features).

When encrypting a file using Axcrypt, you are presented with a window where you enter your passphrase twice (first time and then as a verification step just in case you incorrectly typed a passphrase the first time). You are also able to select a key-file for the encryption. When clicking on "OK", the file is encrypted. The toggles for "Remember this for decryption" and "Use as default for encryption" applies on the computer only until you restart your computer.

I find encryption software to be a useful tool especially for people who store personal files on the internet and I have no problems recommending Axcrypt for Windows users since I've been using this program for over 5 years without any issues (other than me misplacing the key-file for one of my encryption protected files and not being able to decrypt this file but this was my fault).

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL hyperlink (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Meike battery grip for Nikon D5100 D-SLR camera review

I purchased a Meike battery grip for my Nikon D5100 D-SLR camera a few weeks ago and received it recently so I thought that I would write a review on the product.

Since the Nikon D5100 D-SLR is considered to be a mid-level entry camera, Nikon hasn't released a battery grip for this camera and probably won't so some companies have decided to fill in the void by creating their own battery grip for the Nikon D5100 camera.

I purchased my battery grip mainly because I heard/read that the battery grip will allow photographers to use non-Nikon OEM EN-EL14 batteries for their Nikon D5100 camera. As mentioned in my mini-review on the Nikon D5100 D-SLR camera, the D5100 detects a computer chip on authentic Nikon EN-EL14 batteries and will give an error message as well as not work when non-Nikon batteries are used. Even though I have 2 authentic Nikon batteries and I always like to carry 2 sets of batteries whenever I take pictures, I felt that because of the high price of the authentic Nikon EN-EL14 battery compared to the OEM EN-EL14 battery, one day I might decide to get OEM batteries and having the battery grip would be useful.

The first thing about the battery grip is that the colour matches the camera relatively well. You would have to look very closely to notice the difference in colour between the D5100 body and the battery grip. That being said, the battery grip is light and the plastic feels cheap when compared to the plastic on the D5100 camera body itself. The fit of the battery grip and the D5100 body is almost perfect. There is very little empty space between the camera body and the battery grip once the battery grip is secured in place using the screw that fits into the tripod hole on the bottom of the camera. The battery cover clip/lever on the battery grip is flimsy but it gets the job done by locking the battery grip's battery cover in place one the EN-EL batteries are inserted.

People should be aware that some people have modified the Meike battery grip for Nikon D3100 cameras by cutting/sanding one side of the battery grip. The side of the battery grip is the only difference between the Meike battery grip for Nikon D3100 cameras and the Meike battery grip for Nikon D5100 cameras. Personally the box that I purchased indicated that the battery grip was specifically for the Nikon D5100 camera.

In order to use the battery grip, you must first remove the battery cover from the D5100 body. To do this, you just angle the battery cover at roughly 45 degrees and pull firmly and the battery cover will pop off the bottom of the D5100. There is a holder space for the battery cover on the Meike battery grip so that people don't misplace/lose it.

Once the battery grip is attached to the D5100 body, it gives the camera a "better" look (in my opinion). For me, I find that the added weight makes it a little easier for me to take pictures.

The battery grip has a shutter release button (to take pictures). This makes it easier to take pictures while holding the battery grip (holding camera vertically). However in order to use the battery grip's shutter release button, you must use the included cable which connects the battery grip to the camera via the port on the left side of the camera.

I was going to test OEM EN-EL14 batteries in my Meike battery grip but I was pleasantly surprised that the OEM generic/non-Nikon EN-EL14 batteries that I purchased actually worked in my Nikon D5100 camera.

Based on some of the other reviews that I've seen, in order to use generic/non-Nikon EN-EL14 batteries in the battery grip, you first have to insert the authentic Nikon EN-EL14 battery into the battery grip (on the right side). After the authentic Nikon battery is inserted on the right side of the battery grip, you would then power up the Nikon D5100 camera and it will power on. After doing this, you turn off the Nikon D5100 camera and insert the OEM EN-EL14 on the left side of the battery grip. With this configuration/set-up, the D5100 will still power-up. After doing this, you can replace the authentic Nikon EN-EL14 battery on the right side with an OEM EN-EL14 battery so that there are two OEM EN-EL14 batteries in the battery grip and the Nikon D5100 will still power-up. Once this is done, as long as there is always 1 battery in the battery grip, you can swap out the other battery without any issues and the camera will still work. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your viewpoint), I wasn't able to test this (but I've seen videos showing this) since my OEM EN-EL14 batteries actually work in my D5100 camera.

I think that this battery grip is a useful accessory but since it is very easy to swap batteries in the Nikon D5100, I don't really see a point to the longer shooting time offered by the battery grip except if the person takes a lot of videos (or takes very long videos). In terms of whether I recommend the product or not, I think that it depends on whether the person plans on purchasing OEM EN-EL14 batteries in the future which may or may not work directly with the Nikon D5100 camera. For me, the OEM EN-EL14 batteries that I purchased surprisingly worked directly with my Nikon D5100 camera.

If you have any comments/questions regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL hyperlink (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will I or Won't I buy an iPhone 5?

Since I didn't really have anything to review this week, I wasn't sure what to write about for this week's blog entry but since the biggest technical gadget news item this week is probably the release of the iPhone 5 in North America, I decided to write about what my thoughts were on the new iPhone 5 and whether I will be purchasing one (or not). I have taken a look at the specs for the iPhone 5 and it does look nice.

I do have an iPhone 3GS that I sometimes use to make/receive phone calls but the majority of the time, I use it more like an iPod Touch (surf, e-mail notification, play games, listen to podcasts, watch videos, etc.).

I generally skip at least 1 generation for a particular device before purchasing the next device. This is why even though I like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I haven't purchased it (and why when the iPhone 4 & iPhone 4S came out, I didn't purchase those phones either). The iPhone 5 represents a big improvement from my iPhone 3GS but because I use mainly my Blackberry Bold 9700 and my Samsung Nexus-S (and I don't really use my iPhone 3GS), I'm taking a wait and see attitude in regards to whether I will purchase an iPhone 5. Currently I'm waiting to see if Rogers will introduce a data plan that I feel is worthwhile for me to get a new Rogers account.

One of the things that I don't like about the newer iPhones (iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5) is that they don't use the standard size SIM card. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S use MicroSIM cards while the newer iPhone 5 uses NanoSIM cards. Because I sometimes travel and I have a few US SIM cards that are of regular size, it is somewhat of a hassle for me to try to convert my US SIM cards to the proper size in order to fit into the newer iPhones. I also feel that when traveling, regular size SIM cards are easier to find than the smaller SIM cards used in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5.

Something else that bothers me about the new iPhone 5 is that it uses a new charging/syncing cable/adapter. This means that if I purchase it, the "dock" that I have on my radio won't work with it.

Apple has stopped including Google Maps and YouTube with the newer iPhone 5 (at least with the new iOS 6) . However, by the time most of you read this, there will probably be standalone apps for each of these.

As someone who has a Blackberry (Blackberry Bold 9700), an iPhone (iPhone 3GS), and an Android (Nexus-S), I see the pros and cons of each of the devices. The phone that I currently "use" the most would be my Blackberry Bold 9700. The main reason for this is that I find it easier to type on a physical keypad as opposed to using a virtual on-screen keypad. I haven't upgraded my Bold 9700 to the Bold 9900 because I'm unsure about RIM's future and because their built-in e-mail and built-in browser requires the use of RIMs servers, I don't want to be stuck with a device where over 50% of what I would want to use it for no longer works.

If you have any comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a hyperlink whether or not it is embedded will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging Station Review

I've been using my Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging Station for a few months now and I thought that now was the perfect time to write my review about it.

The major selling points for the product is that it allows for the charging of up to 4 devices at a time (USB charging) and it automatically shuts down to prevent overcharging and eliminates standby charging.

I've used the device to charge my GPS unit (TomTom Go 930), my iPhone 3GS, my Blackberry Bold 9700, and my Samsung Nexus-S at the same time using the device. According to the documentation, if the electronic device requires too much power to charge, the Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging station won't be able to charge as many devices at the same time. I have not used my Belkin charging station to charge my HP TouchPad nor did I use it to charge the Blackberry Playbook that I had evaluated when it first came out since I am sure that the Belkin station wouldn't be able to charge either of these tablets because of the amount of power they require in order to charge.

The only device that I've had problems charging from my devices listed above is my Blackberry Bold 9700. For some reason, it will only charge from one of the USB ports and using the shortest (included) USB cable. Moving/Using the exact same cable in a different USB port on the Belkin USB charging station produces an error message on my Blackberry informing me that the device is incapable of being charged from the unit.

Another thing that I noticed when my Blackberry Bold 9700 is plugged into the Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging station is that even though all my devices plugged into the unit are fully charged, the charging station would continually charge them for up to a few hours before turning off. However, when my Blackberry Bold 9700 is not plugged into the Belkin charging station but my other devices (iPhone 3GS and/or Samsung Nexus-S) is plugged into the unit, the Belkin charging station powers off within a reasonable amount of time after the devices are fully charged.

Because the Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging station powers off once it detects that all devices connected to it are charged, this can present problems. For example, if you decide to charge your smartphone too early (prior to you taking it), it might no longer be fully charged when you remove it from the charging unit such as if you decide to charge it when you come home after work and then you forget to "recharge it" before you go to bed, by the time you wake up the following day, your smartphone will no longer be fully charged and might not even have enough power to last the entire day.

Other than the shortcomings that I've already mentioned above, there isn't much that I don't like about the Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging Station and I have no problems recommending this unit.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer Review

I had an ink jet printer (Canon) over 15 years ago and after using it for about two years, I stopped using it since at the time I had access to a laser printer and was using that. Eventually, the inkjet printer nozzle got clogged since I wasn't using it and after fixing it one year, I eventually sold it.

I found myself needing a printer again recently and decided to purchase an all-in-one printer. For me, I didn't really care about faxing (although it would be a nice feature to have) and I was interested mainly in printing, scanning, and copying. I did some research on the internet and solicited some advice from friends on my Facebook. It just so happens that one of my friends had purchased an HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer and he had very good comments about it. One of the things that he mentioned was that it uses less ink than the other ink jet printers and he personally vouched for this since after a few months of printing every day, he was still using the original ink cartridges that came with the printer. He mentioned that there were 3 HP Officejet 8600 printers (Pro, Plus, & Premium). I opted to purchase the Pro version since it was the one that my friend had, it was the least expensive, and the additional features in the Plus & Premium version although nice to have, I didn't consider the additional price to be worthwhile based on my usage.

First of all, the HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer is considered to be a home-office type of device so it is somewhat more expensive than a lot of the entry-type (home) all-in-one printers on the market. It is larger/bulkier and seems more sturdy than the other printers that I saw while I was shopping for a printer in the store.

What I like about the printer is that it is wireless and supports both wired and USB connections. Since the printer is away from my computer (and away from my wireless router), I opted to use mine in wireless mode.  According to the documentation, it supports B, G, and N. I had no problems connecting to any one of my three wireless routers using WPA encryption. Another nice feature that I like is that the printer can upgrade/update its own internal software/firmware without the need of a computer. This is different from updating the computer's printer software drivers/application.

One other thing that I like is that it has an enclosed paper tray as opposed to some of the other inkjet printers where you put the paper standing up into the paper slot. I'm not sure how much paper it accepts into the tray but according to the documentation, it says that it supports 250 sheets.

It supports direct printing from memory card (SD/MMC, MS/DUO) as well as USB memory stick. There is an LCD display touchscreen which is used to preview images as well as to navigate through the menus.

The Pro version (which is what I have) supports automatic duplex printing. Unfortunately, it doesn't support automatic duplex copying (the Plus & Premium versions support this along with some additional features).

The HP Officejet Pro 8600 has 4 independent/separate ink cartridges so that if one of the cartridges runs low, all you have to do is replace that one cartridge as opposed to replacing a cartridge that has all the colours. The cartridge types that it uses is 951 (or 951XL) for Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow whereas for Black it uses 950 (or 950XL). The XL cartridges print ~2x more pages. For example, whereas according to the specifications the HP 950 ink cartridges prints up to 1000 pages, the HP 950XL ink cartridges prints up to 2300 pages.

This printer also supports HP's ePrint and Google Cloud Print. What HP's ePrint allows you to do is to print certain types of documents (mainly Word, Adobe PDF, Excel, JPG, and PowerPoint) from any internet device that is capable of sending an e-mail since the printer is assigned a unique HP ePrint e-mail address. I've tested the ePrint feature (printed a photo while I was at work to my home printer) and it works very well. After adding the printer onto my Google account as a Cloud Printer, I was also able to print from Google Chrome on my PC as well as on my Chromebook to my HP Officejet Pro 8600 at home while I was physically at work.

I tested the scanning, printing, and photocopying and they all performed relatively well. Printing is relatively fast although I'm not sure about quoted/documented speeds of 13 to 32 ppm depending on print quality. I tested the printing a picture to the printer and to be honest, I was not overly impressed with the colour print quality for pictures. However, perhaps this was due to the paper that I was using. Another thing to mention was that when the picture print-out came out of the printer, the paper was not "flat" and the shape and texture was similar to a piece of paper being sprayed with water and allowed to dry. This obviously was not the case when printing regular printouts where the colour/ink does not encompass every square centimeter of the paper.

The device scans in either JPG or PDF and will either store the files onto a computer (where the  HP Officejet Pro software is installed) or it will store it onto a USB memory stick. I did have issues scanning directly from the printer onto my computer but I believe that it is probably a problem with my computer as opposed to the device (since my friend who has the same printer informed me that he did not experience this issue). The error message that I would receive on the LCD display would be a connection issue even though my computer was connected to the same network/router that the printer was connected wireless to. I would also occasionally get a small warning on the task bar indicating that the connection to the scanner was lost but then it would reconnect a few seconds later. When scanning from my computer using the HP Scan software, I didn't experience any issues.

I downloaded a copy of the user guide (which describes some of the HP Officejet Pro 8600's features as well as troubleshooting instructions) and stored it *HERE*.

All in all, I'm satisfied with my recent purchase of my new HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One Printer. The only thing that I would have liked is that if it had some of the features of the Premium or Plus versions at the price of the Pro version. I also find the ink cartridges to be a bit expensive but I'll see how long the current ink cartridges last (since the printer is supposed to use ~50% less ink and most of my copying/printing is mostly in draft mode).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nikon SB-910 AF Speedlight/Flash Mini Review


I got the chance to try out the Nikon SB-910 AF speedlight/flash about a month ago and I thought that I would write a mini review of it. I didn't use it a lot but during my testing on my Nikon P5100 and on my Nikon D5100 D-SLR, I didn't encounter any issues with it.

The Nikon SB-910 AF is the update to the slightly older SB-900 AF. According to the reviews and videos that I've seen regarding the SB-900, the SB-900 has an overheating problem. According to these reviews and videos, after taking ~25 pictures with the flash in relatively short duration, the SB-900 would stop working in order to protect itself from overheating. The SB-910 doesn't suffer from this.

From what I've seen, the Nikon SB-910 accomplishes this by reducing the intensity/power of the flash so that you can continue to take pictures without fear of overheating the flash or the flash going into "cooldown" mode.

I've tested the SB-910 AF by flashing it manually while it wasn't connected to my camera (using the button on the flash) and it continued to flash even after 50 flashes where I would use the flash approximately 2 seconds apart from one another.

The Nikon SB-910 AF comes with 1 diffusion dome that fits over the flash and 2 filters (1 for when using it in incandescent light conditions which is orange in colour and 1 for when using it in fluorescent light conditions which is green in colour). It also comes with a small speedlight stand and a very nice soft case. There are 2 manuals/booklets with the SB-910 where one of the booklets is the user manual and the other booklet is a sample of pictures taken with the flash.

The Nikon SB-910 uses 4 AA batteries. During my tests, I used NiMH batteries and got good results (relatively fast recharge time between flashes and decent battery life).

What I like about the SB-910 is that unlike my smaller SB-400, the flash head tilts up and down as well as rotates horizontally. It also supports Nikon's new i-TTL system. Something else that the SB-910 includes remote/wireless support.

Unlike my smaller SB-400, the SB-910 has a display screen and has a lot more features and functions (categorized by an LCD panel with a menu system via a variety of buttons and a dial). The SB-400 only had a status LED and the locking switch. During my limited testing, I didn't do a lot of testing with the different features on the SB-910.

What I like about the SB-910 is that it allows for more control than the SB-400. However, this more control has 1 drawback and that is that the photographer using it must know what he/she is doing. In my opinion, this might be a bit overwhelming to D-SLR photographers just starting out. Another thing that I like about the SB-910 is that the flash head can be tilted/rotated so that you can employ "bounce" flash photography techniques. The SB-910's flash is of course also more powerful than the SB-400 which allows for light to go further and allows for the photographer to get properly exposed pictures which are a bit further away.

I tested the SB-910 on my Nikon D5100 D-SLR as well as on my point & shoot Coolpix P5100 and it works with both cameras. However, as you can see from the photos above, on the Coolpix P5100, it looks very awkward and feels very awkward/heavy since the flash is heavier and larger than the camera itself.


Nikon SB-910 AF on Nikon Coolpix P5100

Nikon SB-910 AF on Nikon D5100 D-SLR

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Using Netflix, Unblock-Us, and the LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 Box

I had some spare time today and was making a few changes/adjustments to my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box and I noticed that it started to partially work with the Unblock-Us service which was a pleasant surprise.

What I decided to do was to switch the region of my Unblock-Us service account to Mexico and reconfigure the network settings of my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box to use the DNS settings from my router as opposed to my ISP. I had previously set the DNS settings directly on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box to use my ISP's DNS settings instead of using the DNS settings from my router (which I set to use Unblock-Us's DNS servers since I routinely connect multiple devices to Netflix) after I couldn't get Netflix to work at all on the LG Smart TV Upgrader box because Netflix would appear in a weird state. The previous time when I checked it, the listings were the Canadian listings (my home country) but these videos were not available from the Unblock-Us Netflix country settings which was set to the US. When I would select one of the movies, it would say that the movie wasn't available and tell me to pick a different movie or try again later.

I'm not sure if what I did fixed the problem or whether the problem was fixed on Unblock-Us's side but my Unblock-Us Netflix country selection was set to Mexico (because I was watching a lot of Pixar movies), I wanted to try my Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box to see if I could get the Netflix Mexico listings. This was the first time that I was trying to use my Smart TV Upgrader Box with the Mexico listings (previously I had just tried it with the US settings).

Because my LG Smart TV Upgrader box was set to use the DNS settings from my ISP (I was using it to only watch movies from the Canadian Netflix selection), I changed it again to start using the DNS settings from my router (which was set to use Unblock-Us's DNS servers). After doing this, I clicked to test whether it properly connected to the internet and the LG Smart TV Upgrader box showed that it had an internet connection.

I then unplugged the power cable from the LG Smart TV Upgrader box, waited a few seconds, and replugged the power cable back into my LG Smart TV Upgrader box.  The box rebooted/restarted and then I turned it on and went into Netflix and noticed that the Netflix application on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box was now showing the US listings (even though the country selection on Unblock-Us's website was set to Mexico). I tried one of the movies and it didn't work (since the actual Netflix listing was somehow the US listings on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box whereas the country selection on Unblock-Us's website was set to Mexico).

At this point, I went to Unblock-Us's website and changed the country to the US and unplugged the power cable again from my LG Smart TV Upgrader box, waited a few seconds, and replugged it in. After it rebooted/restarted, I powered on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box device using the remote control and went into the Netflix application. The Netflix listing was still showing the US listings. I selected one of the movies and this time it worked.

When I have some additional time I will try my LG Smart TV Upgrader box again with the Brazil or Mexico country settings on the Unblock-Us service to see if I can get this to work properly. More details will follow once I do this.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that any comment that contains a URL link or an embedded URL link will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Unblock-Us Review (comparison between Blockless service)

After subscribing to the Blockless service that I wrote about in about 2 of my previous blog entries, I discovered a new service called Unblock-Us that does the same thing and works similarly (where you change the DNS settings either on your router or your device to use their DNS service) which I decided to try.

The new service (Unblock-Us) in my opinion, after trying it for a few days, is better than Blockless. One of the biggest advantages is that whereas Blockless has 3 country selections (Canada, US, & UK) for Netflix, Unblock-Us has 6 country selections (Canada, US, UK, Ireland, Mexico, & Brazil) for Netflix.

After taking a quick look at UK and Ireland Netflix, they appear very similar so I'm not sure if there is a dramatic difference between these 2 selections. Based on my quick look, Mexico and Brazil offer a lot of Disney & Pixar movies that aren't available in Canada & the US.

I started to watch some of the animated Avengers season 2 episodes which aren't part of the Canada/US selections on my Android tablet. I've also watched one of my favourite Pixar movies (The Incredibles). The only thing I noticed about watching the Brazil or Mexico selection is that there is additional ending credits (with voice credits for the different language track) and for the selections that I've tried there were either different subtitles (in Portuguese or Spanish) or a different soundtrack/voicetrack (Portuguese or Spanish).

Both services (Blockless & Unblock-Us) cost roughly the same (~$5.00) and both work based on the same technology (change your DNS settings to use their DNS). They also both offer 1 week free trial offers.

If you are an avid Netflix user, for the additional country selections I would go with Unblock-Us.

There might be some things that Blockless does better than Unblock-Us but based on my quick usage (and since my primary usage for this type of service is to watch Netflix), I prefer using Unblock-Us.

Netflix doesn't work with both Blockless and Unblock-Us when using my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box. I suspect the reason for this is that it only works on what is considered "portable" (or mobile) devices. Both services work fine with my iPhone 3GS, my Android phone, my Android tablet, my Chromebook, my netbook, and my computers.

I am still able to watch the different country selections of Netflix on my television by attaching my Android tablet (via HDMI cable) to my television set. The DNS configurations for my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box are set to the DNS settings provided by my Internet Service Provider.

EDIT: For part 2 of my review on Unblock-Us, please check out my blog entry on Sunday November 11, 2012 (click *HERE*).

EDIT: To get the most out of Unblock-Us, please check out my blog entry on Monday January 7, 2013 (click *HERE*).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment that contains an embedded URL link will be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight/Flash Mini Review

I purchased my Nikon SB-400 speedlight/flash over 1 year ago and I thought that I would write a mini review of it.

I purchased this speedlight for one of my Nikon digital cameras (Nikon Coolpix P5100) mainly because I wasn't satisfied with the built-in flash from the camera itself. I feel that the range for the built-in flash for most digital cameras (including the Nikon P5100) is very limited.

When I saw the SB-400 at a very good price I decided to purchase it.

The Nikon SB-400 is considered to be Nikon's entry-level speedlight/flash and it uses 2 AA batteries. I've used mainly rechargeable NiMH batteries in my SB-400 and find the battery life to be very good. I also like the fact that it is compact/tiny compared to the full-sized speedlights/flashes from Nikon. If I used one of the full-sized flashes on my Nikon Coolpix P5100, it would look very awkward since the flash would be larger than the camera itself.

Nikon SB-400 on Nikon Coolpix P5100
Nikon SB-400 on Nikon D5100 D-SLR
I find the recharge rate for the SB-400 to be good. It uses Nikon's i-TTL flash system so it is also compatible with my Nikon DSLR (Nikon D5100). In fact, even though I have a full-size flash (which I will write a mni-review at a future date), I still bring my Nikon SB-400 speedlight with me and will occasionally use it with my Nikon DSLR.

What I like about the Nikon SB-400 is that it is small/tiny and light-weight. I also like that it uses two standard AA batteries and has a fairly quick flash recharge rate when compared to the camera's built-in flash. The last thing that I like about it is that it supports Nikon's new i-TTL flash system. I also like that it comes with a very nice form-fitting soft case.

What I don't really like about the Nikon SB-400 is that it does not have a swiveling head. It does allow the flash to be tilted up to 90 degrees (in certain increments). The flash also doesn't have any "zoom" feature nor does it have any wireless support. It also has no on-screen display nor any controls (there is only an on/off switch, an status LED, and a flash/camera locking lever).

Based on the price that I paid for my Nikon SB-400 speedlight/flash, I've been satisfied with my purchase. I take a lot of indoor shots and I find that not only with my Nikon Coolpix P5100 but also with my Nikon D5100, the speedlight extends the range of the built-in flash. It also conserves some of the camera's battery for taking pictures instead of powering the flash.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My thoughts on Netflix US content

I've been using Netflix Canada for about 9 months now and so far I've been satisfied with it. I watched Netflix when I was in the US (US selections) using my Canadian Netflix account and I thought that there was quite a lot of good movies as well as television shows available on Netflix US which were not available in Canada.

There are many ways of seeing the US Netflix content while outside the US and I discovered one such way about a month ago called Blockless which I reviewed *HERE*.

I find that the Netflix US selection oftentimes compliments the Netflix Canada selection. For example, currently as I write my review, Netflix US has all the Star Trek television series/episodes (Star Trek original series, Star Trek Animated Series, Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise) but none of the Star Trek movies while Netflix Canada has all the movies (except the recent Star Trek reboot with the new Captain Kirk) but none of the television series/episodes. Netflix Canada did have the new Star Trek movie (the one with the new Captain Kirk) but for some reason, it was removed a few months after I watched it. There are other examples where the Netflix US selection compliments the Netflix Canada selection (ex: Terminator appears only in the US selection while Terminator 2 - Judgment Day appears only in the Canadian selection)

There are other shows/movies that appear on both the US selection as well as the Canadian selection. For example, the NBC cancelled television show Heroes appears in both selections as does a lot of other cancelled television shows (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, etc.) as does a lot of movies (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2, etc.)

I find the Netflix US selection to not be "better" than the Netflix Canada selection but "different". If anything, if I had to choose (and based on my personal viewing preferences), I would say that the Netflix US selection is only slightly better than the Netflix Canada selection. I would say that 50% of my Netflix viewing are only available to the US whereas 40% are only available in Canada (with 10% being available in both selections).

For me, because I use the Blockless service, I get the US selections on certain "mobile" (portable) devices in my house I like having both Netflix Canada and Netflix US available to me for the additional cost of Blockless service. I wouldn't stop viewing the Canadian selection just because I have access to the US selections on Netflix.

If you have any questions/comments related to what I've written on this blog, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments selection below. Please note that the comments are moderated and any comment which contains a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Watching US Netflix while outside of the US

I've been using a service called Blockless in order to get access to the Netflix US content while in Canada. They offer a 7 day free trial so I decided to give it a try before subscribing to their service.

The first thing I want to mention about their service is that they do NOT give you free Netflix service. You have to be an active Netflix customer in order to watch Netflix using their service. As long as you haven't subscribed to Netflix before (or within 1 year), Netflix has a 30 day free trial offer.

The way that their service works is that you either configure your individual device or you configure your router to use their DNS settings and you log onto your blockless account with your PC in order for their service to determine that you are either on a trial membership or you are an active subscriber. Because their service requires the changing of the DNS settings, their service will probably not work with some public WiFi access points especially if the access point requires a type of logging-in (or accepting the terms of service).

I find their service to be very good as it allows me to watch Netflix and get the US content when physically I am not located in the US (similar to a VPN service). The Blockless service works with other geographical IP restricted content/websites as well such as Pandora, Hulu, etc. but I mainly use their service to view Netflix US content while outside of the US on my mobile devices. You can also use their service to access Netflix Canadian content or Netflix United Kingdom content while you are outside those areas as well by logging onto your Blockless account and then configuring the Netflix content to point to either Canada, US, or United Kingdom. So far I haven't accessed the United Kingdom Netflix selection since I have plenty of things to available to me with Netflix Canada and Netflix US but according to the Blockless website, Netflix United Kingdom selections are available as well.

I noticed that the Blockless service only seems to work on "portable" or "mobile" devices. By this, I mean that after configuring my home router to use their DNS and I access my Blockless account on my computer, I'm able to watch Netflix US content with my Android tablet, my Android phone (over WiFi), my iPhone 3GS (over WiFi), my Chromebook (over WiFi), my Windows computer, and my Windows laptop/netbook. It did not work with Netflix my LG SmartTV Upgrader ST600 box even though my LG Smart TV Upgrader ST600 box was using the exact same router and as such it had the same public IP address information/settings.

When I tried to use my LG Smart TV Upgrader box while it was connected to the same router, the Netflix on it would be in a weird state. I would see the titles for the Canadian content (which is where I am physically located) but I would not be able to watch any of the Canadian content because they were not available (in my area). I reset the LG Smart TV Upgrader box and tried changing the settings on the box itself to the US but it still didn't work. I also contacted Blockless' technical support department but they couldn't help me (although they were very helpful when their service stopped working for Netflix on my Android devices). Instead, what I decided to do was to configure the box so that it used the actual DNS settings from my internet service provider. This way I could continue to use Netflix on my LG Smart TV Upgrader box and watch Canadian Netflix content while if I wanted to watch US Netflix content, I used one of my "portable" devices. When I want to watch US Netflix on my television set, I plug in one of my "portable" devices to my television (in my case, I plug my Acer Android tablet using an HDMI cable) and I start the Netflix application and then select the Netflix video that I want to watch.

So far I've used their free trial service and it worked for me enough that I decided to actively subscribe to their service. Based on the cost (~$5/month), I found that I was using their service enough to watch US Netflix content to make it worthwhile for me to subscribe to their service.

If you have any questions/comments regarding anything written on this blog, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section. Please note that comments are moderated and any comments that contain a URL link or hyperlink will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.