Sunday, April 29, 2012

HP TouchPad Review

I've had my HP TouchPad for almost 1 year now and people have asked me what I thought about it and why I haven't written anything on it

I wasn't planning on getting an HP TouchPad when it first came out. After it came out for a few months, because of the dismal sales, HP decided to abandon the product and sell it at a huge discount ($99.99 for the base 16GB model compared with the original price of ~$499.99 for the same unit).

Even though it quickly sold out in stores across Canada and the US when HP discontinued the product and slashed the price to $99.99 for the 16GB unit, a friend of mine who worked for HP managed to get me one. From what I know, they were allowed to purchase 2 at the heavily discounted/discontinued price.

As of the date of this blog entry, the current firmware/OS on the HP TouchPad is v3.0.5. The tablet runs HP's webOS (which they purchased/got when they purchased Palm).

For me, the price that I paid for the HP TouchPad is probably the highest price that I would pay for it considering that there is very little application support/products for this tablet. I use this tablet mainly for quick browsing to check various news stories, check my e-mail, get PDA (calendar/contact) information, and read my PDF documents.

One of the things that I like about this tablet is that it supports Flash videos so I am able to watch videos from various news sites (CBC, CTV, etc.) on it. It also plays YouTube videos very well.

One of the things that I don't really like about this tablet is that the included Maps program is Bing maps and not Google maps. Google Maps does work on the tablet but this is obtained using the browsing experience and not a separate application. The tablet does support Google synchronization for contacts, calendar, and Gmail which I find to be very useful since I store my contacts and calendar items using Google and it synchronizes across my various gadgets (Android phone, iPhone, Blackberry, & Android tablet).

I find the battery life to be okay and based on my usage, I need to recharge it every 2 days or so. As I mentioned, most of what I use it for is to verify my e-mail, check my Facebook account (maybe update the status using it), get PDA information, and read my PDF documents.

The HP TouchPad charges using a standard microUSB cable but this cable must be plugged into a special adapter (roughly the size of a D-type consumer battery). The HP TouchPad won't charge by plugging it into most standard USB chargers that I've tried.

About 2 months after I purchased the HP TouchPad, I hacked it to increase the speed (overclock it) and disable some features that made my HP TouchPad seem snappier. However, earlier this year, I decided to revert back to using it non-hacked since I has having problems updating the firmware/OS.

I am currently considering putting Android on my HP TouchPad. There is a lot of information/instructions on the internet on how to do this and as long as it is stable and most of the HP TouchPad's hardware (Wi-Fi, speakers, etc.) still works properly, I would prefer using an Android device over a webOS device mainly due to the lack of 3rd party applications.

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 comments that contain a URL link or hyperlink will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Android v4 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich)

I recently received a prompt on my Nexus-S that a new OS update was available for it and decided to update the OS since my Samsung Nexus-S is unrooted and unmodded so I wasn't really worried about having to re-root or re-mod the Nexus-S (and any problems that might arise with rooting and modding with the new OS).

When I wrote my blog entry regarding my Samsung Nexus-S (*HERE*), it was at v2.3.6 (Gingerbread) so going up to v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) using the OTA (over the air) update was skipping v3.x (Honeycomb).

I've used Honeycomb (AndroidOS v3.x) on my Android tablet so when I updated my Nexus-S to Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), I wasn't sure what to expect.

The upgrade on my Nexus-S took under 10 minutes using the 3G from my provider and I don't remember how many times my phone rebooted as part of the installation but I would say that it didn't reboot more than twice.

After the reboot, there were some updates from the Google Play Store that I had to do (Gmail, Google+, etc.) and this also didn't take a long time.

The interface for ICS is somewhat similar to the iPhone interface in the fact that instead of scrolling through applications by moving your finger vertically over the screen, you now have to move your finger horizontally over the screen. There is also a quick launch application bar on the bottom of the screen similar to what has been available on the iPhone. This quick launch application bar can be customized. To customize it, you basically drag the icon off the quick launch bar and replace it with the program icon that you want. I find the animation when scrolling across the application list "pages" is nice.

I do find that ICS makes my Nexus-S a bit less responsive (less "quick") than when my Nexus-S was running Gingerbread but all in all, I'm satisfied/happy with the update. ICS does take a bit of time to get used to since after about 2 days, I still sometimes find myself trying to scroll through the application screen by scrolling vertically but I would say that there is no real learning curve when going from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich or even when going from Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich.

In terms of whether you should update your device (ex: Nexus-S) from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich, I would recommend doing so since a lot of programs will probably work only with later versions of Android. When Ice Cream Sandwich officially becomes available for my Android tablet (currently running Honeycomb), I will have no hesitation about upgrade my tablet as well to ICS.

I'm not sure if this is an added result of upgrading my Nexus-S to ICS but for callers who aren't part of my contacts, my call log will give an approximate geographical location based on the area code. For area code 514 (which represents the island of Montreal), it will show up as a "Quebec" area code (which I'm assuming is the province of Quebec and not the city of Quebec).

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 comments that contain a URL link or hyperlink will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Netflix Canada Review

After having used Netflix Canada for a few months, I thought that I would post my thoughts about its offering and the quality.

There are a few devices that have Netflix capabilities. I've seen Netflix enabled televisions, blue-ray DVD players, game consoles, and smartphones. I access Netflix mainly on my television set using a small box called the "LG Smart TV Upgrader box ST600". I've written a few reviews about this box which based on the number of hits when compared to the hits of my other blog entries seems to be a popular search feature. I've also accessed Netflix on my Chromebook, my Windows netbook, my iPhone 3GS, and my Android Samsung Nexus-S. I'm able to access Netflix content very well using the devices that I've tried.

When I first decided to try Netflix Canada, I wasn't sure what movies and television shows they offered. The reason for this is that there is only a partial list on their website of the available content. I heard that the offering in Canada was not as good as it is in the United States. Luckily, Netflix Canada offers a 1 month free trial (credit card required) in order for users to see whether Netflix is right from them.

Having gone to Las Vegas in January 2012, I was able to access my Netflix account on my laptop as well as on my smartphones while in the US and I can say that the offering in Canada is extremely limited when compared with what is available to Netflix US customers. When I went to the US, my Canadian Netflix account automatically gave me access to what American customers have access to watch. There was a warning/disclaimer message when I accessed my Netflix account informing me that I would be accessing country specific media. Because of time constraints, I only managed to watch 2 Netflix movies while in the US and both of these movies are currently not available to Netflix Canada customers.

While the Canadian Netflix content does not compare with the US Netflix content, I do notice that there is new content added on a somewhat regular basis. I would estimate that every 2-3 weeks, there are new movies and new television series that are added to Netflix Canada.

Because I've seen a lot of movies in the theatres, most of the content that I watch on Netflix Canada are television programs. I would say that 80% of the content I watch from Netflix Canada are television programs and 20% of the content that I watch are movies. There are a lot of television programs available using Netflix Canada. I've personally watched Heroes, Dragon's Den, Early Edition, and Family Guy. Movies that I've watched include a few of the Star Trek movies (as of the date of my post, all the Star Trek movies including the 2009 Star Trek movie are available), Unstoppable, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Next, and Thor.

To access Netflix on a Netflix capable smartphone or on your computer, it requires logging on using the e-mail address you used to sign-up for Netflix and your Netflix password. To access Netflix on the blue-ray DVD players or Netflix enabled television sets that I've seen as well as on the LG Smart TV Upgrader box, it requires that you add the device to your Netflix account. You do this by logging onto your Netflix account on your computer and entering a code which displayed by your device. Your computer will then display a code to enter into your device.

Once you log into your Netflix account, you are able to select what quality you want the media to stream to your devices. There are 3 settings: Good (up to 0.3 GB per hour), Better Quality (up to 0.7 GB per hour), and Best Quality (up to 1 GB per hour, or up to 2.3 GB per hour for HD content). Since I have unlimited internet, I keep my setting at Best Quality but I have tried the other qualities as well and the quality is comparable to what you can get with the different settings in YouTube.

The big question is whether Netflix Canada is worth the money. At the time of this blog entry, the monthly subscription cost is $8.00 per month. Netflix gives a 1 month trial subscription (valid for new subscribers only) so that users can see the type of content available and whether the service is right for them. Even though the Canadian content doesn't compare with the American content, because I currently have unlimited internet and the cost is only $8.00 per month for unlimited viewing (which is comparable to ~3 DVD rentals at a DVD/video store), it is worth it. The only thing that I would advise users if they don't have unlimited internet is that they should actively monitor their internet usage and reduce the Netflix video quality settings if necessary.

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 comments that contain a URL link will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Netflix on LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 (Part 2) Review

With a few topics/reviews that I wanted to write about this week, I wasn't sure what topic I should pick. Rather than pick a new topic/item to write about, I've decided to write some additional comments that I had regarding watching Netflix using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600.

I could have modified my first blog entry on this topic but thought that it was a better idea to create a new blog entry this week for it. You can click *HERE* for the first blog entry/review that I wrote about using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 to watch Netflix.

As of the date of this blog entry, the firmware on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 is current (up to date) and is at ST.8.79.202.

One of the problems that I've been noticing a lot lately regarding using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 to watch Netflix is that when watching television episodes, sometimes the program will not be available for viewing. This generally happens after I've watched a few episodes from the program already.

Previously, to fix this problem, what I did was I simply rebooted/restarted the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box and the problem would go away but now (or at least with this current firmware), restarting the unit more often than not does not fix the issue. The only time that I've noticed that this problem will go away is by waiting a few days (or sometimes weeks).

What appears on the television screen during this Netflix episode "weird" state is when the television program is selected, the option to play the television episode will show a strange message such as "Resume episode undefined." Also, the number of episodes will not be displayed for the particular problem television series and you will also not be able to go through the television episode listing.

The problem only seems to happen when using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box to watch Netflix since when I use my phone (iPhone 3GS or Samsung Nexus-S) as well as my computer, I'm able to watch the program/episode without any problems. Since I have access to two LG Smart TV Upgrader Boxes, I wanted to see if it happens with both boxes and when the television series is in this "weird" state where you can't watch it, it seems to be account related because on the other LG Smart TV Upgrader Box, the particular television series experiences the same issue.

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

TomTom Go 2405 TM Review

I've been using the TomTom Go 2405 TM for about 2 months and I thought that I would write a mini-review on it.

I've been using TomTom GPS products for a few years now. My first experience with TomTom was as an add-on module/software for my Palm TX PDA. I later purchased a dedicated GPS (TomTom Go 930). While my TomTom Go 930 still works, because the maps on it were old, I felt that upgrading the maps on my old TomTom Go 930 compared to buying a new GPS with lifetime map updates would not be cost effective.

I haven't tested all the features of the TomTom Go 2405 TM but two of the features that differentiate it and my old TomTom Go 930 is the free lifetime map updates and the free lifetime traffic updates. Lifetime refers to the general life of the product or when TomTom no longer makes map updates for the device and is non-transferable between devices.

The first thing that I have to mention is that the traffic updates work only on major highways and don't work on smaller streets or service roads. The traffic updates show up as a bar on the right hand side of the screen indicating whether there are any delays in your route (and an estimated time for the time delay). As such, you are only given traffic updates when you are using the GPS to follow a route. The traffic antenna is located in the proprietary car charging cable. I've found that the traffic updates were quite accurate. Of course, there are times when I noticed that it wasn't correct (like when it tried to get me to go on the highway and I could see that the entrance to the highway was slow/blocked so I opted to manually take the service road) but most of the time, I would say that the traffic update was accurate.

This GPS has built-in bluetooth handsfree so that when driving you can answer the phone or make calls while driving. I tried it but didn't really like how it worked compared to my older TomTom Go 930. When connecting the GPS to a compatible bluetooth phone, the GPS will copy all the contacts from the phone and store it on the GPS. I didn't like this feature and from what I could see, there was no way of turning this feature off. I only wanted to be able to answer calls and not copy my phone's contacts onto the GPS but this wasn't possible without copying the phone's contacts.

One of the things that takes some getting used to is the new windshield mount for this GPS. Unlike with my older TomTom GPS, I found that this new windshield mount locks to the window of the car very well and has never fallen off the windshield while I've been driving (my older TomTom GPS mounts would fall probably once a month). The GPS is secured onto the windshield mount using magnets which takes some time to get used to. I've found removing the GPS from the windshield mount to be difficult sometimes since you can only remove it a certain way because of how the GPS locks to the windshield mount.

My older TomTom Go 930 used a program installed on the PC for all updates/maintenance on the TomTom GPS. This newer TomTom Go 2405 TM requires the installation of a plug-in and uses the web browser to perform all updates on the device. Personally, I preferred how my older TomTom Go 930 handled this because with the newer implementation, it required that the GPS unit be connected to the PC when performing all functions like downloading the map updates.

Speaking of the map updates, it can sometimes take a few hours to download the entire map updates and having the device connected to the PC while this is being done is sometimes inconvenient. Once, the webpage informed me that it would take over 12 hours to update the GPS over my internet connection!

Unlike my older TomTom GPS, there is no SD slot on this GPS and it also doesn't have an FM transmitter (or remote control). The lack of an SD slot on this newer GPS will cause problems eventually because the updated maps are larger and as they get too large, the TomTom Go 2405 TM won't be able to store the map on the unit any longer. I'm not sure if it is possible to only download the maps that you want but I don't believe that it is the case. This means that when the particular map update is too large for the internal memory on the GPS, regardless of whether the GPS still works or not, you will probably have to purchase a new GPS unit with lifetime map updates if you want to continue to get the free map updates.

I do find that the TomTom Go 2405 TM is not as accurate as my older TomTom Go 930. My older TomTom Go 930 is or was considered TomTom's high end GPS unit when it was originally released while the TomTom Go 2405 TM is considered mid-range. As such my TomTom Go 930 has a lot more features and benefits over the TomTom Go 2405 TM. The only benefit that I would say that the newer TomTom Go 2405 TM has over my older TomTom Go 930 is the unlimited free map updates and the unlimited free traffic updates. However, it isn't really fair to compare both products since as mentioned my older TomTom Go 930 is (or was) considered TomTom's high end GPS product and I would say that the TomTom Go 2405 TM is considered their mid-range GPS product.

I feel that because of the way this TomTom GPS uses the browser in order to update the maps, it is not safe/reliable as having a separate program installed on the PC to update the maps. Unlike my older TomTom GPS unit, there is also no way of taking a backup of the device before applying an update so there is no way to roll-back in the event of a problem/errors. Based on some of the reviews that I've read from other users on other sites, once this happens, the GPS becomes little more than an expensive paper-weight and most be sent to TomTom for repair.

I downloaded a PDF version of the manual which describes the functions of this TomTom GPS. You can download a copy of it from *HERE*.

If you have any comments/questions regarding my mini review of the TomTom Go 2405 TM, please don't hesitate to leave a comments in the comment section. Please note that comments are moderated and that any comments that contain a URL link or a hyperlink will automatically be flagged as being spam and will not be posted.