Monday, March 25, 2013

LG Nexus-4 Review

I managed to get my hands on a LG Nexus-4 a few days ago and decided to write my review this week on my experience and my thoughts on it.

For the last few years, I've been skipping at least one generation in terms of phones instead of getting each new upgrade that the phone manufacturer comes out with (which I was doing with the Handspring/Palm line of products... Handspring VisorPhone, Treo 600, Treo 650, & Treo 680). My Android phone of choice a few years ago was the Samsung Nexus-S. There was nothing really wrong with my Samsung Nexus-S but it was starting to show its age (1 cm scratch on screen, battery not lasting for an entire day based on my limited usage, and it being somewhat sluggish) and when the opportunity came for me to get the LG Nexus-4 at a good price, I went for it.

I like the Nexus line because it is pure Google Android without any bloatware from either the carrier or the phone manufacturer. I didn't get the HTC Nexus-One, purchased the Samsung Nexus-S, skipped the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and purchased the LG Nexus-4. The Nexus line also comes factory unlocked regardless of which carrier you purchase it from which is another thing that I like about it.

There are a lot of reviews that compare the LG Nexus-4 with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Since I never actually handled a Samsung Galaxy Nexus but did read about it, I won't be comparing the LG Nexus-4 with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

What I like about the LG Nexus-4 is that it is fast. I probably find it fast because I skipped a generation in terms of the Nexus line so the speed improvement and the responsiveness of the operating system is definitely the first thing that I noticed when I started using my LG Nexus-4. In fact, if possible, I find it a bit too responsive/fast. The Nexus-S had a single core processor whereas the Nexus-4 has a quad core processor.

The screen resolution is very good (1280 x 768 compared with 800 x 480) and I find that the camera takes very good pictures (8 megapixel compared to the 5 megapixel resolution of my old Samsung Nexus-S). I didn't really use the front facing camera on my Samsung Nexus-S but the LG Nexus-4's front facing camera is also better.

Something that was introduced in the Nexus line with the Galaxy Nexus is the ability to unlock the phone using the front facing camera (Face Unlock). This is something that I find amazing and use to unlock my phone. As a back-up in case the camera doesn't recognize the face of the owner, it can be set to unlock either via PIN or via pattern unlock. Just in case someone tries to use a picture of the owner in order to unlock the phone (or unlocking the phone while the owner is asleep), the phone also has a setting requiring the owner to blink before it will unlock. I find the face recognition to be very good. I set the phone to unlock only when I blink and I find that the blinking is a hit-or-miss in that the phone will sometimes not detect whether I've blinked or not and will not unlock.

Something that I like about the LG Nexus-4 is that it is pentaband 3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, & 2100) and quadband GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, & 1900). In Canada, this means that unlike the Samsung Nexus-S where a Videotron/WindMobile Nexus-S would not work on the 3G network on Rogers/Fido (but would work on the 2G network to make/receive calls as well as data) and would not work at all on the Bell/Telus network, the LG Nexus-4 will work on whichever Canadian carrier (Rogers, Fido, Chat-r, Bell, Telus, VirginMobile, Koodo, Videotron, PetroCanada) regardless of which carrier you originally purchased it from. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was also pentaband 3G so in Canada, it would work in the above SIM operated Canadian wireless provider's network regardless of which carrier the phone was purchased from (especially since as mentioned above all Nexus phones are sold factory unlocked). What I'm not really crazy about is that it doesn't use the mini-SIM card (like the older phones and like my Samsung Nexus-S) but uses the micro-SIM card. The other thing that I find lacking in the phone is that it doesn't support LTE when most of the new phones coming out support LTE.

Something else that I like about the LG Nexus-4 is that it has Gorilla Glass whereas my Samsung Nexus-S didn't which is why it probably has a 1 cm scratch on the glass.

The LG Nexus-4 doesn't have a user removable battery unlike the Samsung Nexus-S which is somewhat of a drawback. However, I've been using my iPhone 3GS and didn't have any problems with wanting to change the battery or swap the battery. In my opinion, having a user replaceable battery would still be good and it is somewhat of a drawback that the LG Nexus-4 doesn't have this.

One somewhat annoying thing for me (but it probably wouldn't bother most people unless they switch SIM cards a lot) is that the SIM ejector hole requires a very thin ejector tool (included). The edge/end of a paper clip won't fit into the SIM ejector hole and neither will the iPhone SIM card ejector tool (at least with the tool included in my iPhone 3GS and the tool from an iPhone 4). The Nexus-4 does include the special/thin SIM card ejector tool but for someone who switches SIMs a lot, it is an annoyance that I can't easily eject the SIM card with a paper clip like I can for my iPhone 3GS.

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 the comments are moderated and an comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, March 18, 2013

D-Link SharePort Go Mobile Companion DIR-506L Review

I had the opportunity to test out the D-Link SharePort Go DIR-506L a few days ago and I thought that I would write my thoughts on the product.

The SharePort Go Mobile Companion is portable and slightly larger than a deck of playing cards. It is powered through USB port (mini-USB) or by battery with the included removable proprietary battery. Included with the unit is a USB cable, the battery, and a very small instructional booklet.

I charged the unit using an AC to mini-USB cable from one of my other devices for a few hours. According to the documentation, it takes ~4 hours to fully charge using the USB cable when attached to the USB port on a computer. Charging it fully via my AC adapter was obviously a lot faster. According to the documentation, the battery lasts for 4 hours on a single charge, however like with all electronic devices this number probably depends on how the device is used.

The unit configures via either a WPS set-up button, by connecting to the device via (either wirelessly or wired), by using an Android/iPhone application. Not being a real fan of WPS since I prefer to configure my wireless devices manually, I configured the device using the free Android application. I also wanted to try it also using the iPhone application but unfortunately, the application only works with iOS 4.3 and above and my iPhone 3GS is still at iOS 4.01. The configuration was straightforward on the free Android application (called QRS Mobile) for basic set-up. The only problem that I experienced was due to the fact that this device's internal IP address matched the internal IP address of my existing wireless router.

Because my home network isn't very straightforward and the very small instructional booklet (Quick Installation Guide) was written for very basic network configurations, I had to download the user manual from the company's website to get some added information about setting up the device as an Access Point. At the same time, I checked to see if there was any firmware updates on the company's website and applied the latest firmware on the device.

Accessing the device's configuration directly via a browser allows for more advanced configuration options. The options available when configuring the SharePort Go Mobile Companion are similar to most advanced router configurations including MAC address filtering, opening network ports, etc.

The company's video below from YouTube outlines some of the features of the device.

I tested to see whether the device would charge my iPhone 3GS and my Android phones (Samsung Nexus-S & LG Nexus-4) and according to the phone display, it was charging without any issues. It was unable to charge my Blackberry Bold 9700 but then again my Blackberry Bold 9700 will sometimes charge using some cables and sometimes it won't charge using the same cable so I'm not sure whether it will charge Blackberry phones. I didn't let the device fully charge my phones, I just looked at the message or icon on the phone to see whether the phone was actually charging.

I tested the device's SharePort capability by plugging in my USB memory stick (with some photos on it) and I was able to watch them without any issues on my Android tablet with the free SharePort Mobile Android application. I also tested it with some MP3 files and didn't have any issues either. Unfortunately, I didn't have any quickly accessible videos in MOV or MP4 to test.

I find the device good and useful but here are my negative comments about the device:
1) Even though I like the fact that the device has a removable/changeable battery, I would have preferred it if the device used standard batteries or batteries used by some other devices (like camera batteries) but then again, the required voltage/amperage probably makes this very difficult.
2) Unlike a laptop which can be powered with an AC adapter without having the battery plugged into it, the device requires the battery in the unit even when it is being charged/powered by an AC adapter (similar to how cellphones behave). For users who don't need a battery powered device, the non-battery powered SharePort DIR-505 might be a better option.
3) Since most cameras use SD memory cards, having an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot would have been nice (but I basically have a USB SD card reader stick so it isn't really a big deal).
4) Only supports USB devices that are less than 500 GB
5) I find the video file format that the unit supports limiting. However since I believe that the primary market for this device is for users/consumers to share videos taken from their digital cameras, this might not be a big issue for most people.

All in all, even with the negative comments mentioned above, I like the D-Link SharePort Go Mobile Companion DIR-506L device and don't have any issues recommending it for any user who needs the functions of such a device.

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 the comments are moderated and an comment containing a URL link (whether embedded or not) will automatically be flagged as spam and will not be posted.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Online/Cloud Storage Solutions

There are a multitude of free online/cloud storage solutions available to consumers. I use 4 online/cloud storage solutions and I thought that I would describe them for this week's blog entry. They all offer a client for Windows which synchronizes the online/cloud storage space with a specific directory on your computer. Some of the online/cloud storage solutions also have clients for cellphones (Blackberry, Android, iOS, and HP's WebOS).

The first online/cloud storage solution that I used was Dropbox because most of the people where I work used it. I started with 3 GB of online storage and through referrals, I'm currently at 5 GB of storage space available. By clicking on the above link and going through with the installation process, you will get a bonus of 500 MB (giving a total of 3.5 GB). Dropbox gives 500 MB for every referral up to a maximum of 16 GB. There are other methods to increase your online storage (via connecting to your Facebook account (+125 MB), connecting to your Twitter account (+125 MB), following their Twitter feed (+125 MB), etc. For a complete list of ways to get additional storage space, you can check out their comprehensive list on their website. Dropbox offers mobile clients for Blackberry, Android, and iOS).

The second online/cloud storage solution that I used was Google Drive. Google Drive was originally Google Docs. I use Google Drive mainly because it is part of Google and I use most of Google's products. Google Drive gives 5 GB for free. Google Drive includes a mobile client for Android and iOS.

The third online/cloud storage solution that I used was SkyDrive. It is part of the Microsoft line via their Live products. My SkyDrive is 25 GB as part of a promotion that they had. I believe that new users get 7 GB of free online storage. Because I have more storage space on SkyDrive, I find myself storing most of the files that I want to back up on SkyDrive.

The fourth online/cloud storage solution that I used is Box. My Box account is at 50 GB of free online storage via a promotion that they had for users of the HP TouchPad. They currently have a feature where business users can get 50 GB of online storage for free via a referral from someone who already has 50 GB at the same company. Box determines if the e-mail address of the person doing the referring is a company e-mail address. Box is the only company to have a native WebOS client application for the HP TouchPad. It also supports the most mobile clients (Blackberry, Android, iOS, WindowsPhone, and Playbook)

Out of the four online/cloud storage solutions that I've mentioned on this blog, I primarily will use (in the following order): Box, SkyDrive, Google Drive, and then Dropbox. The reason why I primarily use Box is because I have the most space available via Box than any of the other cloud storage solutions that I've listed here. However, generally I find myself storing important files on all 4 online/cloud storage locations so that if any one solution fails or is not available, I will still have a copy of my files.

All the online/cloud storage solutions that I've listed work similarly (at least based on the type of usage that I use them for and I believe that most people would use them for) so my recommendation on which solution to use would depend on how much free storage space the company offers and whether you use the company's other products (ex: Google or Microsoft Live).

Before uploading any of my files onto any cloud storage product, depending on the file, I will generally encrypt the files to keep them away from prying eyes. For confidential files like tax slips/receipts, bank statements, etc., I will always encrypt these confidential files whereas for pictures I will generally leave those unencrypted. Even though most (or all) of the online storage companies don't allow guests to download files without you either sharing the files or making a link available, my feeling is that you can never be too sure who has access to your files on any of these storage spaces including the company itself.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to write a comment in the comment 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, March 4, 2013

Unblock-Us and non-Netflix Subscribers

I was asked at work a few weeks ago about Unblock-Us and decided that perhaps it was time for another blog review on it especially now since Unblock-Us has updated their website recently. The person who asked me did not have Netflix but I had mentioned that I watched an entire episode of an American show from an American broadcaster's website (CBS). He was looking for a service that would allow him to watch certain videos from television websites (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.) without getting the prompt that the video was not available for the region.

I use Unblock-Us mostly for Netflix as you can see from some of my previous blog entries on Unblock-Us but I also use it occasionally to watch some of the television programs that I've missed for whatever reason (didn't/couldn't record it on my Tivo, etc.).

Because Unblock-Us is not a VPN service, it doesn't change your computer's IP address but changes the DNS (Domain Name Server) that your computer/devices use in order to access certain websites/applications, it will only allow you to watch videos from certain websites. For a list of the websites that Unblock-Us supports, you can click *HERE*.

Accessing the videos on the websites is seamless. After configuring your computer/network to use the Unblock-Us DNS servers, there is no configuration that you have to do. With Netflix and Unblock-Us, there is a country selection that must be done on the Unblock-Us website. However, with the supported websites shown in the above list, the website will think that you are in the respective country. You would access the CTV videos at as if you were in Canada and you would access CBS videos at as if you were in the US.

Because the cost of the Unblock-Us service is roughly the same cost as VPN service, I told my friend that he should probably look into getting a VPN service since he wasn't a Netflix subscriber. A VPN service would also allow for better access to videos since it would not be limited to only the Unblock-Us supported websites. A VPN service would also work for other websites (ex: Google, etc.) which restrict IP addresses to a particular host country. The only thing to watch out in terms of the VPN service is that I've heard that the response rate (bandwidth) for a lot of VPN services are not very good for streaming and I've never really experienced any issues with Unblock-Us and bandwidth as long as my regular internet bandwidth was fine. For me, I find accessing videos from certain websites to be an added benefit from my Unblock-Us subscription since I use Unblock-Us mainly for my Netflix subscription.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to write a comment in the comment 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.