Category Archives: Reviews

Matching for Toddlers – PhotoMatchTots



982043_150727 PhotoMatchTots 

Weily Apps –  $.99

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iPhone Kids AppiPod Touch Kids App

The concept is universal, it might be known as matching, or concentration, memory, regardless of what its call, it’s the same.  Encouraging kids to pay attention and remember images on cards, flipping them, and seeing if they can match them up.  Its gotten to the point that this is even a part of Nick Jr around commercial breaks.  Matching is a game I’ve played with both my older kids, including getting my son Toy Story 3 matching game for Christmas.

What the people at Weily Apps has done, has taken this concept (because it would be pretty hard to play this in a doctor’s office, grocery story, or in the car) and applied a little out of box thinking to take advantage of being on the iPhone.  You have the option to play the typical game using cards predetermined by the app, or you have the option to make cards using photos you have on your phone.  Matching is typically geared towards preschoolers, maybe slightly younger, but PhotoMatchTots is geared towards even younger kids, and allowing the option to select your own photos is something that I think benefits the younger kids, as it can be a photo that they already can associate with and remember.  Look at it as training wheels for your toddler and they work on their cognitive ability.

Features in My PhotoMatchTots 1.1 are
– 2 levels of play: 6 or 12 cards
– Fun sounds
– Continually mix it up by changing your game with your personal photos
– Large card size to accommodate young hands

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BOTTOM LINE

“PhotoMatchTots- children’s memory puzzle game” doesn’t win any awards for flashy design, but its not meant to.  Its flashy in its simplicity, not only of style but of execution, of a common game for young kids.  The ability to customize the cards I feel will help broaden the appeal to slightly younger kids then most memory games, as you can add that level of familiarity.  At the price tag it carries (.99) its worth grabbing for that extra little bit of entertainment you might need in those trouble times!

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Sing your ABCs – ABC Song Piano



original ABC Song Piano  

Kiboomu Publishing –  $.99

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iPhone Kids AppiPad Kids AppiPod Touch Kids App

What’s one of the first songs people enjoy teaching their toddlers?  What’s one of the first songs that people will show up that their child knows, to other people?  At least for me and my boy, it was the ABCs.  Now, Bug is getting to the age where the fun and excitement can be repeated, and the ladies at Kiboomu have helped capture the joy and fun in their latest app in their Song Piano series: ABC Song Piano.

Just like with their previous apps “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Piano” and “Old MacDonald Piano” you go and press the piano button, and your little one can sit and enjoy the music and animation, but also have the option of interacting and pressing the piano keys themselves.

With ABC Song Piano, children can do the following:
♫ learn the alphabet
♫ follow the lighted keys or match the colorful music notes to the piano keys
♫ watch the piano keys light up one by one with the song
♫ press the start button and sing along
♫ add animal sounds to the song
♫ hear the song played on a banjo, xylophone, harp, flute, bells and more!
♫ record your child singing and playing the piano!
♫ sing and read karaoke style lyrics in English, French & Spanish

Just like their previous iterations, Kiboomu has show that they know how to develop apps that not only educate but entertain toddlers and preschoolers.  So if you’re looking for a new app to help keep you kids quiet and entertained, or if you’re child is starting to learn their ABCs and getting excited about it, then this app is for you!  As always with Kiboomu, I highly recommend this app.

Below is a video of Bug watching and listening to the app the very first time I played it for her.  If that’s not a 20 month old captivated, I don’t know what is!

 


BOTTOM LINE

“ABC Song Piano” is an exceptional colorful and creative musical, educational, and entertaining app that will bring out your child’s excitement about learning the alphabet along with bringing out your children’s interests and talents of music.

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Mophie’s Juice Pack Air breathes new life into your iPhone


mophie_logoOn this site I sometimes will do a technical heavy post/review and other times I don’t because I don’t feel its an important aspect of what a normal user would want to know.  This is not going to be a technically heavy post because well, I don’t want to take away from the absolute greatness that I feel this product offers.  So if you’re looking for measurements or how much extra weight the case adds to the phone, or what the battery specs are (rechargeable 1200mAh) you need to move along to another site.  If however you’re curious as to how the product preformed for me and my reactions to it, then please, continue!

Juice Pack Air – iPhone 3G & 3GS from Mophie $49.95

PROS

  • Doubles as a protective case
  • Doubles your battery life

CONS

  • uses micro-USB port
  • status LEDs are unreliable for accuracy.

Up front, I’ll admit I was hesitant regarding Mophie’s Juice Pack Air.  My iPhone 3G is on its last legs of life.  Battery lasts absolutely no time at all anymore (we’re talking 100% down to 20% in a matter of hours) especially with my heaving texting/email/Twitter lifestyle.  I’m just fortunate I spend a lot of time traveling and able to keep my phone on charge during those times on the road or I would really being hurting.  I can say that after the very first day of using the Juice Pack Air, I was sold!  I went from my phone only lasting a few hours with normal use (Email, Twitter, Facebook, Texting, phone calls) to lasting the entire day, and I pushed it hard too.  So everything you read is true, the Mophie Juice Pack Air does double your battery life, no matter how bad off your battery is.  It nearly tripled my battery life, its like I have a new phone again.

JPA Purple Front BackNow just a hint of the technical:  The Juice Pack Air has a rechargeable 1200mAh battery, is made from matte plastic that makes it a successful and attractive protective case as well.  The case is divided into top and bottom sections that, when enclosed around the phone, forms a seamless and snug hold that can quickly be taken apart if need be.

On the back of the Juice Pack Air, there are four blue LEDs used to indicate the power that’s left in the battery.  Although it didn’t always seem to be completely accurate, its still nice to have so you have a general idea.  Along with the LEDs you have a on/off switch on the bottom of the case, which gives you the option to use the Juice Pack Air as an extended power supply, or simply as a protective case.

Uclip_image002sing the included cable (a micro-USB) you can connect the Juice Pack Air to your computer just like you would your typical iPhone USB cable, through the USB port, letting you charge the case and sync the iPhone simultaneously.

BOTTOM LINE

If you’re like me, still sucking the life out of your iPhone 3G or 3GS and want to give the old work horse an extra kick, at $50 you can’t pass up the Juice Pack Air.  It does what it promises to do, lives up to the expectations, and you’ll never look back.  Give your iPhone some new life!

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See how bad AT&T compares to Verizon in Kentucky (and your area); Thanks to the iPhone and Coverage?


shapeimage_1Ever been traveling and wondered if you were going to get in or out of 3G coverage?  Maybe you’re just curious of the coverage in general where you currently at?  Maybe you’ve moved and looking for which company has the best coverage?  Whatever spin or usage that you can think of, the people behind Two Steps Beyond have recently had an app released in the App Store that can show you the coverage maps of the 4 major wireless providers. ( AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile)

The funny thing is, this app is for the iPhone, which was still solely under AT&T at the time of the apps initial release, and this app basically can be used to show how poor AT&T’s 3G coverage is compared to Verizon and the other carriers.  A quick example: below are the AT&T 3G map and the Verizon 3G map showing what coverage I receive where I travel for work.  The blue marker marks my location when pulling up these maps. (home)

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So as it is clear, Verizon has a very clear lead over AT&T in terms of 3G coverage in Kentucky (and Tennessee from the looks of it).  This is just a funny spin on the usage of the app Coverage? though.  In all reality, for anyone that is travelling, this app is an absolute must, especially if you do a lot of work, and that data coverage is an all important aspect for you.  A great idea, a great concept, and perfectly executed for the smartphone traveler. 

**The app is also always being updated with the latest information regarding the coverage areas.  Version 2.0 added 4G coverage and new map overlays. 

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Mike Birbiglia–Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories


birbigliaUp front, I am a fan of Mike Birbiglia.  I have been since I started hearing him on The Bob and Tom show, and have since made sure I’ve grabbed his latest CDs, listened to his appearance on the Nerdist Podcast and caught his Comedy Central specials and TV appearances.  That said, I was somewhat hesitant regarding this book, because I was fearful I had probably heard most of the material in one medium or the other.  Fortunately for me, I was pleasantly surprised.  So if you’re a fan of Birbigs in anyway, then this book is something you’ll be glad you got, and if you’re not, do yourself a favor and grab this book and introduce yourself to one of the funniest comedians you can find.

“Sleepwalk with Me” (Simon & Schuster) is a look, not only into Birbigs comedy and how his life influenced his art, but sometimes it almost reads as if he’s admitting or confessing something to you so you can understand where he is coming from better, of course this typically comes at the expense of himself.

Yes, it is a humorous read, and reads almost like a fuller version of his routine, where each chapter is its own joke, where it has a premise and a punch line, but its much fuller, its much more fulfilling then a simple “wham-bam” joke, and sticks with you much more.  Not only that, but in fleshing out these premises that he uses as backdrops for his comedy, Birbiglia mixes in parts of his true character where he writes about things that affect us all, including a parents illness and the eventual loss of ones first love.

Still, with all this, Birbigs since gives you some of the comedian biography where he covers his rise to where he is now, and shows some of the inner workings of being a stand up comic.  Fortunately for the reader, this doesn’t bring you down or slow the book, Birbigs has a perfect way of just telling you how something is or was.  His book reads just like his act sounds.  Personal, as if he’s talking to you or telling you a story in hopes of entertaining, not just telling a joke to tell a joke.  There is sometimes an unrealized difference between the two, but in this case, its realized, and reads perfectly.

The book is an enjoyable, but unfortunately for the reader, a quick read at around 200 pages.  The book definitely leaves you wanting more, but I can’t think of a more appropriate compliment to pay this book but that.  It leaves you wanting more of Mike Birbiglia. .

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Top 10 iPhone Apps for Infants for 2010


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Well, its that time again, to give out the list of the top apps I’ve been fortunate enough to use with Bug.  Consider all these that I list as tried and true apps, that I have used and are approved by Bug and that can save you as a parent when you have a squirming, impatient infant/toddler.  Some are new, some are from previous lists, but I consider this my top list for iPhone apps for infants for 2010.

bubbles

Bubbles

Price: $1.99     Developer: Hog Bay Software

Yes, the concept is simple, buy hey, sometimes simple is better!  If you need a quick distraction for your little one, Bubbles is just the ticket for you.  All it is, is a simple app with animated bubbles that you pop by touching them.  An easy distraction for that squirming, impatient little man or lady.
Admittedly, the simplification of the app leaves a lot to be desired, such as different colors, but none the less, it does what you strive for it to do

cat

Cat in the Hat

Price: $3.99     Developer: Oceanhouse Media

Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat is a musical, interactive version of the book we loved as children, but is now on your iPhone for the new tech savvy generation!  Admittedly this might be slightly more advanced for the smaller ones, but still great entertainment as they sit in your lap, and is a great way to introduce them to Dr Seuss in a new and entertaining way.  The best part is that Oceanhouse Media is offering more and more apps based on children’s books, way too many to list here, so you’re not limited to just The Cat in the Hat

first

My Very First App

Price: $.99     Developer: Night & Day Studios

This is the first of 3 apps that make this list from Night & Day Studios (and let me say, they are not a sponsor and I’ve paid for these apps, these are simply apps that Bug loves and entertained with).  My Very First App is a fun and interactive educational app based on Eric Carle’s My Very First Books.  The apps comes with 3 levels – Easy (ages 1-3), Medium (ages 2-5), and Hard (ages 3-6) along with offering additional levels and options through in app purchases, giving this app long term value as your little one grows.

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Old MacDonald Piano

Price: $.99     Developer: Kiboomu Publishing

Kiboomu Publishing also makes more then one appearance on this list as both apps have proven themselves, and just like with their first one, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Preschool Storybook Piano, Kiboomu has taken a favorite and classic children’s song, and put a fresh, entertaining, and equally educational spin on it.  Old MacDonald comes with the four modes that users of Twinkle Twinkle have become familiar with; Play Sing Along, Learn The Song, Karaoke Mode, and Freestyle Mode.  What, in my opinion, sets Old MacDonald above Twinkle Twinkle are the entertaining images that accompany the song as it plays, along with, what we’ll call the “commentary” from the farmer himself.

barn

Peekaboo Barn

Price: $1.99     Developer: Night & Day Studios

This is the app that started it all and made me realize how important an entertaining and educational app could be to have! The second appearance on this list by Night & Day Studios offers fun, education and entertainment, an equation they seem to have mastered.   And once you’ve gone through all the animals with your child, how can you not smile when you hear the little girl say “wooooster”.

wild

Peekaboo Wild

Price: $1.99     Developer: Night & Day Studios

The first successful app to calm my daughter was the wonderful Peekaboo Barn.  Both Barn and the sequel app Peekaboo Wild offer a entertaining, colorful experience that can be completely controlled by your child.  Unlike similar apps that offer animal names and sounds, what Barn and Wild offer is a simplified interface that opens a wild world of fun for your child.  One touch of the screen will reveal the hidden animal, allowing your child to hear the sound the animal makes, then says its name.  A second touch takes that animal away, and resets to play peek-a-boo with the next animal.  The simplified navigation and function makes this an easy app to just load and hand over while driving, because once they figure it out, they love playing with it themselves.

splish

Splish Splash Inn

Price: $.99     Developer: Short Stack

The app, in concept is simple, but in practice outshines all others.  Splish Splash Inn is self paced, as your child can select when and which door he/she wants to click next, only to enter the selected room and watch as they count a set number of a specific sea animal, not only helping with counting skills, but also throwing in a little marine biology in the mix (those sneaky Shortstack folks!)  I sometimes have to help Bug use this one, as its difficult for her to sometimes get back to the door selection screen, but its fun to listen to her trying to count with the narration, and enjoys touching the animals and seeing what noises each of them make.  If you haven’t checked this one out, this is a must have for your infant or toddler.

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Toddler Counting

Price: $.99     Developer: iTot Apps

Designed by parents in coordination with preschool teachers, Toddler Counting helps teach basic counting skills, and even makes it fun for your toddler.  The basis is somewhat a combination of a few apps already on this list.  You are given a random number of animals on a screen, like “3 Bears” and the app counts, as you touch each bear.  A very simple app, that Bug has really started to enjoy as she’s learning to count, and keeps her attention as much as any other.

twinkle

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Piano

Price: $.99     Developer: Kiboomu

This is another one of those apps that has proven the test of time and that my daughter loves!  Its another one of those apps that you can just go to and let them loose with, letting them play the piano as the song plays, or mix and match.  The app comes with four separate modes play; Play Sing Along, Learn The Song, Karaoke Mode, and Freestyle Mode.  Each mode offers its own method to allow kids to learn this great classic song, giving this app the unique gift of having a renewing interest, even with kids that get bored quickly, allowing for separate methods of integration.

velv

Velveteen Rabbit

Price: $3.99     Developer: Ruckus Media Group

If you’re looking for a unique and beautiful storybook app, Ruckus Media Group is the place to go!  Ruckus Media Group has began to feature some classic children’s books, that are absolutely gorgeous, some of the most beautiful apps I’ve ever seen, and up the aunty even more by having their storybook apps read by notable, actors, and accompanied by well-known musicians.  The app gives you the two typical options, where you can read to your child, or have the app read to them, but also offers a third option, which some parents might enjoy; you’re able to record yourself reading the story, for it to be played back to your child later.

Of course, as always, if you feel that I’ve missed an app, please comment below, as I always love finding new apps and/or have no issue with admitting when I’m wrong

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Withings Wi-Fi Scale – Reviewed


Okay, for anyone that hasn’t figured it out by the name of the site, I consider myself a geek, and in that, any new, or unique technical gadget just seems to call my name!  So, when I came across a scale that not only was Wi-Fi enabled, but also had a free iPhone app you could download, I was all of it!  (My desire to lose some weight at the somewhat direct suggestion of my doctor was also a helpful push towards this bad boy!)

Features

  • Wi-Fi enabledScreen-shot-2010-02-09-at-9_13_24-AM
  • Backlit screen
  • Battery powered
  • Body mass sensor

Pros

  • Multiple users with automatic user detection based on weight
  • Attractive/Slim design
  • Quick readings
  • Lots of reporting options

Cons

  • Seemingly low battery life
  • Some might argue about the price; $159

So, you might be asking yourself “why does a scale need Wi-Fi?”  Well, I’m here to tell ya, and rest assured, you’ll not wonder “why” anymore after I’m done with ya!

To start off, yes, the scale has Wi-Fi built in,, but that allows it to transmit your data to you Withings site, to your personal, password protect account.  You are also able to post your progress and the data the scale collects on sites like Google Health, Twitter, and others.  The data mentioned that the scale collects is your weight (obviously) but it also collects your fat percentage and your BMI, all of which is transferred over to your account, viewable on the Withings site, and allowing you to keep continual track of your progress nearly effortlessly.  (Well you still have to get yourself up on the scale, so there is SOME effort).

The scale itself looks rather sexy for a scale.  It has a nice contemporary look, with a shiny glass top, and a nice, bright, easy to read LCD display.  Getting the scale set up to use is really rather simple.  After installing the batteries (4 AA) you connect it to your PC or Mac with the included USB cable.  Point your web browser to http://start.withings.com where you can pair you scale with the site, and you’re ready to roll in about 5 minutes!  Its pretty sweet, and simple, rather more simple then I had expected.

Once you setup your account on the Withings website, you can start weighing yourself and have your data uploaded to the site.  Another cool thing about the scale?  I can recognize up to 8 people!  That should be plenty for a normal household with a couple of extras for random guests.  The site itself has some added functions beyond what some might be used to, basically a spreadsheet of data.  You can have graphs showing your progress over time as you weigh yourself, and you can have separate graphs for weight, fat percentage, and BMI.  You can also set goals that you can mark on these graphs, so you can have a visual of how close you’re getting to your goal.

Remember that iPhone app I mentioned before?  You can go out to the App Store, find the Withings app, download it, and you’ll be able to check your stats and progress anytime you like, while on the go!suiviImageTop

BOTTOM LINE

Overall I have been very impressed with e scale itself.  The only issues I’ve had with it has been how quickly it drains the batteries, or seemed to drain the batteries, short of that, I have nothing buy high praises for this scale and feels its worth a look by everyone.  If you’re looking to drop some pounds and want to keep track of your progress, the Withings Wi-Fi Scale is the definite way to go!  I definitely feel it is worth the price tag for what it offers, and is a “must have” product for this years holiday season.

**For more information, checking out Withings at their website, their blog, on Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE

android%20 %20scaleWithings has just announced, you can now get their Wiscale app for your Android Smartphone!  Now even more people can enjoy the brilliance of this scale!

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Motorola Droid X & Verizon Wireless service–Reviewed by an iPhone and AT&T user


Okay, up front, I have been an AT&T customer for the past 6 years, and have been an iPhone user for the past 2.  With that said, this review is meant more towards the overall experience with the Droid X and Verizon’s service rather then with the technical specifics, you can get those anywhere.

BACKGROUND

I live in a small town in Kentucky, off of I75, and my job has me travelling across at least 36 counties in the southeastern section of the state, through the Daniel Boone forest and the Appalachian Mountains.  The general range I have to travel allowed me an opportunity to not only test a device, but I wanted to test a different service then just AT&T which I have been accustom to.  Verizon Wireless was gracious enough to give me an opportunity to not only demo their service, but also the Motorola Droid X for a couple of weeks.  My first venture with an Android based phone and Verizon.

THE PHONE

droidxThe first and initial impressions I had of the phone was not only its screen size, but the phone’s overall size.  When looking at the side by side, the Droid is noticeably larger then the iPhone, and to some this might be a negative, but after using it, I’d being willing to argue that it is a plus.  Not only was the screen very sharp, maybe not as sharp as the iPhone 4, but sharp none the less, and the larger screen made it nicer to watch videos, look at photos and play, yes; Angry Birds!

The phone comes with four basic function buttons at the bottom of the screen;  Menu, Home, Search, and Back.  As a constant iPhone user, this took a little adjusting to, I found myself having to remember to hit the Menu button for certain options to appear in apps that I was used to bring up with the swipe of a finger.  Nothing really to complain or fuss about, just the nature of the beast and difference between devices.  Call quality was fine for me, and I have no complaints in regards to the quality of the calls.

The device itself runs fast and responds quickly to commands and opening of apps.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of performance, but was impressed by the phone.  The interface took a little getting used to, but it didn’t take very long to grow accustomed to it.  I realize it’s a custom UI for the phone, and differs from other Android based phones, but as this is my first, I have no basis to compare, and won’t attempt to.  I found the IU extremely reasonable on how it functioned, and really have no ill regards towards it in anyway.

Another feature, which I was impressed by somewhat, was the camera.  Pretty much standard for any smartphone anymore, the camera worked well for the shots I took with it, including the built in flash, which was nice being that I’m still in the dark ages with my old school iPhone 3G and am not used to having a flash available on my phone.  One thing that truly impressed me was the video taking capabilities of the phone, as I recorded a few minutes of a basketball game, and had no problem with the video quality and fast movements that came with that recording.

The one draw back, which is something you will see mentioned on nearly all reviews, is the battery life of the phone.  I do a lot of texting, internet, and heavy emailing during the day, and my iPhone has been through the paces.  I have to charge it at least every night, if not plug it up at some point while travelling on the road to ensure I get through the day, so poor battery life is something I’ve just learned to live with currently.  That is one thing I did notice with the Droid X.  I didn’t use it near as heavy as I would my normal phone, and the battery would need to be charged by the evenings, especially if I did any heavy net surfing.  I would say its equivalent to the battery life I currently have on my iPhone 3G, which, isn’t that great, to say the least, but considering some of the aspects of the phone itself, I can see where it would get into having battery life issues.

Technical Specs

  • Verizon Motorola Droid X
  • Android 2.1
  • 4.3” LCD 854×480
  • TI OMAP 3630 1Ghz
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB Internal, 16BG/32GB (microSD)
  • 8 Megapixel camera
  • 3G, Wifi b/g, BT
  • FM Radio
  • TV Out (HDMI)
  • 4.6 x 2.3 x .047”, 4.6oz
  • 1540mAh battery

THE SERVICE

This is the nuts and bolts of why I truly wanted a chance to do this.  I’m going to be very candid and say I’m accustomed to AT&T’s service.  I only have 3G speed available in one small area of my entire 36 county region, and that is in Somerset, KY.  I have grown accustomed to not only random quick dead spots that will cause dropped called, but full blown dead areas, not only in Rockcastle County, but throughout Eastern Kentucky.  Its something I’ve just learned to live around and know.  I’ve traveled the same roads so much the past few years, I know when and where I can make a call or need to end a call early, and the worst part?  In 6 years, nothing has been done to improve the signal quality.

When I received the Verizon phone, I wasn’t only surprised, but I was amazed.  The data speed in which the phone had, sitting in my living room was above and beyond what I received with my iPhone.  Even in the only AT&T 3G area I’m typically in, the Droid X moved faster on data then my iPhone.  Most dead spots that I had grown accustomed to, were none existent with the Verizon phone.  No dropped calls either.

One hiccup I did have, was while attending a college football game in Lexington, the Verizon service did seem to have a few hiccups while I tried to use it in the stadium, but so does my iPhone unless I turn off 3G, so there isn’t a big surprise there which the crowds at Commonwealth Stadium, I just felt it was something to note.

One other candid comment I’d like to make.  I sent the same request to all major Wireless providers in the area, including a few smaller ones.  I only had 2 respond to my request (One where I voiced desire to not only test a device, but their service in the region).  Verizon was the first to respond and have been very gracious in their support, I hope to work out another deal with the other company (Appalachian Wireless) to demo a product and give a similar report to their service soon.

BOTTOM LINE

As a iPhone user for the past few years, I was impressed with the Droid X’s design and functioning, not only as a phone but as an overall device, as I’m the type that expects a lot out of his device, and will milk it for everything it has.  For now, I’m personally going to stick with my iPhone, mainly because I have a few apps that I rely on, that are not currently available on the Android market.  Although with that said, let me also point out that I found some of the apps available on the Android market, very desirable, and unavailable to myself on my iPhone (NFL anyone).

As for the service.  I came in expecting it to be a little more reliable then AT&T, simply by word of mouth, but I was blown away by the difference between Verizon and AT&T’s signal strength and cell reception in what are typically weak and dead zones, not to mention the data speeds I was able to get around my test area.  When it comes to the iPhone being available on Verizon, I very well could be one of the first in line when it becomes available.

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Logitech Harmony 300 Remote – Reviewed


imageMost homes anymore are better suited for, or already equipped with a universal   remote.  One remote to control them all is the goal, and not only a remote to control them all, but a remote that does a good job at controlling them all!  Up to this point, that’s been my biggest complaint and issue when it came to universal remotes.  I never could find one remote that actually did a good job at controlling all my devices.  Either the remote failed to control certain functions or it just flat-out couldn’t control my device.  Well I was lucky enough to get my hands on Logitech’s $50 universal remote model, the Harmony 300, and seriously, every single issue I’ve ever had with using a universal remote, is a thing of the past!

FEATURES

  • Controls 4 devices
  • “Watch TV” button
  • ergonomic design
  • logical and convenient button placement
  • Uses 2 AA batteries
  • Programmable using a USB cable and software

PROS

  • Affordable price at $49.99
  • Programmable using a PC or Mac
  • Works well at being a “remote”
  • comfortable design

CONS

  • Controls only 4 devices
  • Requires a computer with internet access to configure and program

Logitech is known for many things, and one of the upward trends would be their growing choice of outstanding universal remotes, including their new Harmony line.  The first thing to note is that the Harmony 300 is the only model that lacks a LCD screen, which can be a good and a bad thing (I’ll note that in a bit).  Another drawback that the 300 model has on the other models is that it can not recharge batteries, it is powered by AAs.  The device is also limited to only controlling 4 devices.

One of the aspects of the Harmony remote that sets it above all the rest, and allows it to be such a well-functioning universal remote, is that the 300 uses web-based software that you download from their website MyHarmony.com to allow you to program the remote using your computer and the provided USB cable.  This might seem like a strange added step to simpler remotes, and the idea of your remote needing to sync to your computer similar to how you sync your iPhone with iTunes might seem a bit out there to some, but this is the magic of what makes this remote so great!

By using the software, you’re allowed to search for your specific device(s) using the make and model number, ensuring that the pairing is exact.  If you have difficulty finding your device (like I did with my Dish Network DVR) the program will prompt you to help “teach” the Logitech remote by using your current remote.  In my case, following the prompts allowed the remote to find my device properly, ensuring that the programming was correct.  Beyond just the simple device selection, you’re able to reconfigure your remote to allow certain buttons to function as you wish, allowing you a truly custom remote if you wish to have it, including having 5 “favorite channel” buttons you can program go directly to the channel of your choosing.  You’re also able to set macros, such as programming the “Watch TV” button to power your TV and cable box, then switching the TV to the proper input or channel.

BOTTOM LINE

Although it’s not on the high-end scale when it comes to remotes from Logitech, if you’re looking for a simple, well made remote that gets the job done, and a relatively cheap price, then the Harmony 300 is for you.  Although for just a little more money, you can get the next model up and gain a LCD screen and use the activity-based commands that the other Harmony remotes are known for.  In which case, this would be a great remote for say a kids play room or a bedroom, where you mostly just need a remote to power on, change channels and the volume.  Regardless of use though, the Harmony 300 is a great universal remote.

**For more information, check out the Logitech Harmony 300 at their website, blog, Facebook, or Twitter**

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LogiPen NOTES: A Digital Pen for Note Taking–Reviewed


clip_image002I’ll come right out and say it, I’m horrible about writing notes down everywhere.  I have sheets of papers with random notes, anywhere from important dates and numbers to website or “To Do” lists.  Notes from work meetings and phone calls will get lost in the mix of random notes and doodles.  Apparently the people at LogiPen had me in mind when they developed their pen and receiver to record notes.  (Obviously they didn’t think of me specifically, but hey, let me have a moment here!)

FEATURES
  • Remotely captures handwritten ink notes and drawings (mobile device)
  • Allows you to upload, save and convert handwritten notes to typed text (including script)
  • Works as a mouse or tablet input device
  • Works with any kind of paper
  • Stores up to 50 full pages of A4 text
  • Recognizes and converts up to 26 languages
  • Gives your computer Tablet PC abilities
  • Compatible with Windows XP™ & Vista™, 7™
  • Let’s you share, print or email your notes and drawings

PROS

  • Small and compact
  • It comes with rechargeable batteries
  • Can be used with any paper
  • Well priced at $98.50

CONS

  • Handwriting to text is unreliable
  • Tries to be two things at once, doesn’t need to try to be a tablet replacement

If your first thought is that the sound of transferring notes to your computer sounds to be somewhat of a task, where just taking your laptop to a meeting sounds more promising, don’t jump to conclusions.  Sure laptops are great, but sometimes you can’t beat an ole fashioned pen and paper (especially if you want to draw unflattering pictures of co workers as you ignore the latest PowerPoint presentation.)  LogiPen isn’t like most digital pens out on the market where you have to use special, expensive paper.  LogiPen allows you to use your own paper with the use of their pen and receiver.

Wireless Digital Pen Reviews BoxThe way LogiPen allows you to do this is that it uses ultrasonic signals.  The way it works is that there is a tiny speaker inside the pen itself that emits a signal anytime you put the pen against your paper.  The signals emitted by the pen are received by the receiver which you have clipped at the top of your page.  The receiver reads the movement of the pen, and records your pen strokes, in what I’ve tested to find in a very accurate method.  (Want to get more technical?  Click here)

What’s even better?  Your receiver doesn’t require to be plugged into any computer to record your notes.  The receiver can hold up to 150 sheets of legal-sized paper, allowing you to choose when you need to import them to your computer using the provided USB cable and LogiManager software.  Once you have your notes imported to your computer, using LogiMangager, you can edit them, import them into a document or you can use MyScript Notes, also included, to translate your handwritten notes into editable text.  I’ll come right out and admit, the convert handwriting to text didn’t go that well unless I made a point to write neatly, which doesn’t fit with making quick notes, and I’m a messy, left handed writer, so the accuracy wasn’t there.  Considering everyone writes in different ways and different styles, I definitely don’t hold it against the software or this product.  However the editing the notes, being able to remove portions of your pen strokes (including just portions of doodles) is nice, along with being able to import into a word document, allowing you to use said notes or being able to copy what information you need.  I found this method to work very well with the notes I kept.

I did have a small hiccup when installing the provided software onto my laptop running Windows 7 in the 64-bit flavor, but this was easily cleared up after I got on LogiPen’s website and downloaded the updated, compatible software for free.

One quick side note, beyond just the ink refill, your pin also comes with a stylus, giving you somewhat of a tablet experience while having your receiver connected to your computer.  If someone was looking for a quick use of a tablet for some reason, this would work well, but I see it as an unneeded extra.

http://player.vimeo.com/video/7520115

LogiPen from Logipen on Vimeo.

Overall, the premise of having your notes digitally stored and saved, while using your own paper, and being able to store pages for a period of time, or digitally editing them is a welcomed breath of fresh air.  The LogiPen is a great tool for people who like to write notes, especially students and people that are in the business of well, being in meetings.  I highly recommend the LogiPen to anyone looking for a quick, none cumbersome way of writing and digitally saving your hand written notes.

System Requirements

  • Microsoft Windows XP™ (SP2), Microsoft Windows VISTA™
  • MAC OS X (Limited features)
  • 50 MB available hard disk space
  • Minimum screen resolution: 1024×768 pixels
  • Windows 32 & 64 bit compatible

Specifications

  • Coverage area: Up to A4 page (standard size: 210 × 297 mm)
  • Resolution: 100 DPI
  • Connector: USB
  • Standards: CE and FCC compliant

Dimensions and Weight

  • Digital Pen: (L) 133 mm (D) 13 – Weight: ~16gr.
  • Receiver unit: (L) 85mm (W) 40 mm (H) 11mm – Weight: ~100gr.

LogiPen NOTES Kit Includes:

  • Digital Pen/Mouse
  • Pen batteries
  • Refill
  • Plastic refill
  • Receiver Unit
  • USB cable
  • Quick Guide
  • My Script
  • CD with LogiPen NOTES application pack

**For more information, check out LogiPen at the website, Facebook, or Twitter**

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