Book N Tech

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The History of the Smartphone

     The smartphone has slowly evolved from clunky interfaces, fat, slow pen enabled phones to slick, fast, slim super phones powered by apps. Originally the smartphone was created to act as a PC and have the portability of a phone. Originally the smartphone was a niche product and picked up by very few until today where the smartphone today has become a status symbol. Many think that Apple was the main innovator of the modern smartphone and has the only viable product. Truthfully Nokia, Samsung, and RIM are the major innovators in this realm and two out of the three are in financial trouble. Come with me on a ride through history of where the first smartphone was born up to today where the market has truly been cultivated.



      The first batch of smartphones were not very small or light, but rather large and bulky. The IBM Simon pictured above was created in 1994. The earliest concept was introduced by a man named Theodore George "Ted" Paraskevos who birthed the early smartphone. Still we follow a very thin line of scattered concepts by various people until we get to the date 1992. The "Angler" by IBM was announced at the now discontinued COMDEX trade show. Two years later the Simon was released to the public in 1994. Of course the Simon phone would never compare to today's smartphones or even some feature phones, but at the time it was in a class of its own. It could send and receive faxes, e-mails, and pages thanks to a stylus guided touch screen. Of course it did not have a fancy 720p HD screen or a Clearback AMOLED screen like most flagship smartphones today, but at the time the monochrome back lit LCD was revolutionary enough. It had a fold out keyboard and was powered by the Datalight ROM-DOS a.k.a Microsoft mobile Disk operating system. It wasn't wildly successful compared to current smartphones with a modest 50,000 units sold at killer prices on contract: $899. It weighed 1 lb 2 ounces which would be clearly unacceptable today for modern standards. Other things like an address book, calendar, world time clock, alarm clock, some predictive touch keyboards, and a few games. Via an upgrade you could even run 3rd party apps! The bummer was only 1 3rd party app was ever developed called Dispatchlt which ran for $300. Of course the price would be so outdated today and now would be at the most $8.00. This may not have been wildly popular, but it was a revolution that has set the standard for the modern smartphone. Next came along Finnish phone giant Nokia with the Nokia 9000 as part of the communicator line. Compared to the Simon the 9000 was more powerful and lighter at 14 ounces. Thus began the evolvement and creation of the smartphone line. Still the majority of the populous did not want these phones because they could do even more tasks with their PDAs. Finally the first phone to be marketed as a smartphone was the Ericsson R3880.
 File:2964240222 2abd4beb3d o Ericsson R380.jpg

     The True Early Years

     Now with a phone on a real smartphone OS the market expanded to include other competing OS like WebOS and Windows CE/Mobile. I can't truly cover every single smartphone, but I can cover the OS that have come over the years and their biggest phones. 


  • Originally created in 1999 for the Blackberry pager. 
  • Soon took off as a big player in the smartphone race when at once was the "smartphone to get." 
  • Now is struggling in 3rd place with 9% market share.
  • Biggest market is now Enterprise and government due to unique protected calling feature. 

Windows Mobile

  • Originally made in 1990 to run on "pocket pcs' a.k.a Windows CE
  • Windows Mobile 6 was released around the time of the Iphone 3GS 
  • was later replaced by Windows Phone 7 with a new store and a totally new look
  • At its highest point in 2007 it had a commanding 42% marketshare

Windows Phone 7+

  • Announced in Spain at Mobile World Congress in 2010
  • Was meant to replace Windows Mobile 6 but was not compatible with existing phones
  • has a measly 3.5% marketshare according to IDC
  • has Office apps unlike any other platform which are going to be updated with Office 15


  • announced in 2007 as Iphone OS
  • was not released with any 3rd party apps
  • homescreen is called Springboard
  • 1 a year the OS is updated via OTA update
  • 12.4% of all mobile users (smartphones and feature phones) have an Iphone.


  • Android OS is a linux based Open Source OS headed by Google
  • First Android phone was sold in October 2008 
  • Android Inc was originally founded in 2003 by Andy Rubin and was bought by Google in 2005
  • Android is the largest mobile OS with 48% marketshare and over 400 million devices
  • One biggest problem for Android phones is the update system with over 55% of users still on gingerbread. 

Web OS

  • Also based on a linux kernel developed by Palm
  • Originally launched in January 2009 on 3 phones by HP the Veer, Pre, and Pixi.
  • April, 2010 HP bought webOS for 1.2 billion dollars
  • Was originally launched with 18 apps in the store which grew to 10,000
  • Current marketshare is 0.6% 
File:Palm Pre.jpg     File:Palm Pixi Sprint.jpg     File:HP Veer.png

What is to happen?

       Well we have seen smartphones evolve from clunky phones referred to as bag phones with limited functions to insanely thin and light phones with high resolution cameras and speedy ARM based processors that can handle games desktops in the 90's couldn't. Nokia recently came out with the Lumia 920 and 820 which features wireless charging from Qi which debuted in the Samsung Droid Charge. The advent of the portrait keyboard is slowly dying as virtual keyboards get better and more advanced. For now the future is unknown, but inevitably things will be thinner, lighter, and more powerful. We just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

HTC comes back to their true love

      Well HTC has been in the Windows Phone bag from the beginning. One of the most popular was the HTC HD2 which could run Android and Windows Mobile side by side. Now HTC still makes the bulk of the Windows Phone and has 1 on every platform and considerably the only Windows Phones on Sprint and Verizon. Still they have not really based all of their hopes on Windows Phone like Nokia did which means they have also expanded their growing Android phones with things like 720p 3D screens, 3D cameras, 16mp cameras, the HTC One series Image chip, and the cool kickstand found on a lot of their phones. Now HTC has gone out and released two out of the three phones they promised The Verge for Windows Phone on three of the major four networks which is rarely done and is reserved for high quality phones like the Samsung Galaxy 3 or the Iphone. So lets look at these carrier trotting phones with looks that are shockingly similar to Nokia and Sony counterparts. 


      So far we have seen the Samsung Ativ S and the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 been released for Windows Phone 8. As far as flagship phones go the Lumia 920 so far has been the most popular and the 8X is trying to change that. A lot of Nokia fans are already complaining about the similar look of the two phones. I admit they look pretty identical, but the HTC logo and the speaker and beats logo make them look a bit different. As far as specs wise there is not that much that differs mainly due to Windows Phone 8. RAM is 1 GB, has the same 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor, an 8 mp rear camera with LED flash, and the 3 WP 8 required soft keys. Other than the cool colors and the basics like LTE and NFC the similarities stop there. Sadly this flagship phone does not have the same 32 GB storage instead opting for 16 GB of storage. The camera is a lot like the HTC One series high end camera even with the Image chip that makes taking 1080p videos or 8 mp shots fluid and beautiful without the camera bump like the One X and S. What is very surprising is how they are touting a usually overlooked spec feature the front facing camera. I have never heard of a 2.1 mp front facing 1080p camera on a phone before that has a f2.0 aperture for taking wide shots and can reportedly fit 5 people into a shot comfortably. Next is the beats audio. So far HTC has withheld their classic beats branding for Windows Phone and left it to their high end Android phones. Truthfully beats headphones look better than they sound. Any audiophile will tell you that beats are just a bunch of hype and all that they do is turn up the bass not add any clarity or richness. What we have not seen in other beats enabled phones like the HTC One X or the highly popular HTC Rezound is the 2.5 watt amp. Now that means the sound will be loud and adding the beats audio will be great for some electric dub step. The next is the rear camera. It does not have the same high power flash or Carl Zeiss Optics and the fancy pureview floating camera of the Lumia 920, but it has a capable dual LED flash and an 8 mp camera with 1080p recording. Also they added the Image chip which can really process images in a second and beautifully too. Other than that not much else different than any other Windows Phone device.
UPDATE: Thanks to a WP dedicated website (sorry I forgot which one) we have seen what the HTC 8X can do in terms of audio. They played the wildly popular song Someone like you by Adele and not only did the song sound clear and beautiful it was louder than the surrounding noise and the reviewer trying to talk over it! This can really be good news for people who love to listen to music.


      Well of course we have all seen the HTC One series which has a top line, middle line, and bottom line device. They are X, S, and V. In the Windows Phone 8 case it is unknown, X, and S. How do we know? Well according to the Verge it was from high to low: Zenith, Accord, and Rio. The 8S is code named Rio and the 8X is code name Accord. Anyway that is off topic. The 8S has a different look with specs near Android low end to middle end specs. A dual core 1.0 GHz processor which is more than capable to run Windows Phone is at the core of the machine courtesy of Qualcomm powering a 4 inch 840 x 480 screen with gorilla glass. We have a 5 mp rear camera with AF and LED flash with 720p recording without the Image chip like in the 8X. If you have not already noticed we have beats audio, but there is no 2.5 watt amp which will probably deliver less than optimal sound. It is pretty light at 113 grams battery included which makes it great for small people (no offense). Overall it is a smaller, less powerful variant of the 8X much like the Lumia 920/820 combo. But we have 1 big design difference: the chin. Yes, we have a very odd looking chin on the bottom of the device which differs in color depending on what color you decide to get. I think it provides some very nice flair to it and differs from the usual boring hum drum designs of other smartphones. Even the Iphone 5 has a 2 tone back which is better than the norm. The catch is it oddly shares the design of the Sony Xperia U with the chin and squarish design.
I will be glad to overlook this little niggle with design because the 8S has  rounded edges. Still Sony (in a bit of financial troubles) could try to sue HTC over it so we better watch out.

I think that these phones can really help the Windows Phone 8 warhead along with Nokia's and Samsung's offerings.

  One of the best ultrabooks on the market. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Liking the new WP website?

     You may not know, but today the Windows Phone team has redesigned the Windows Phone online site. Thankfully this was much overdue and the overhaul adds a cleaner crisper look. The place where you could get your apps and games has been revamped so that adult content apps show up less and the same for racist apps. They have also destroyed the demo section and have the features/how to section. The buy has been overhauled to a phone section which is very metro looking and has only phones on the top 3 carriers. So far the Lumia 920, 820, or Samsung Ativ S are not there yet. What do you think? Go to to see more!

Is the Nokia Lumia 920 looking more and more attractive?

     Well if you have not heard already the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Iphone 5 have been announced and we have seen some completely different opinions. So far the Iphone 5 has been received with a slightly more negative then positive approach especially in social media. Even CNET had to re ask the question because they said, "Since we have heard so many people hating the Iphone 5 is there anybody who wants it?" Others like founder Onoura Amobi have said, "The launch was one of their worst." On the other hand the Nokia Lumia 920 has had a mildly favorable launch except for the faked video and stills of the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) feature. Still Nokia managed to do some pretty convincing damage control and has not had a truly polarizing affect on the bulk of the tech media or consumers. With the new "slimmer, taller, and faster" Iphone 5 comes three major problems. 
  • new "Retina" screen. with the new taller 4 inch retina screen they have to letterbox apps. so unless app developers make new apps to take advantage of the larger screen real estate we will have apps looking stretched on your new shiny Iphone. Still it will not be a big problem to all consumers except if the news media says so as usual. 
  • It is slimmer because they have forgone the old 30 pin docking connector for a smaller 8 pin connector that will be another cable that looks virtually identical. If you would like to use the old one now you have to pay up $29 for an adapter. With the Lumia 920's wireless charging I think that problem would be irrelevant. Via an article that I saw thanks to a fan people are raising a fuss over it and it will be a legitimate problem Apple will have to face. I can't wait to see how this will go down.
  • The faster has posed a different problem that will be only relevant on Verizon and Sprint's new LTE networks. The Iphone 5 unlike other competitors will not offer support for simultaneous voice and data. Thanks to this article by The Verge we now know that you can only call and use data via Wi-Fi with the Iphone 5 even though every other Verizon 4G LTE phone can. 
Now the Lumia 920 even with a half an inch more screen real estate it has a better screen that can be used with gloves and will have no letterbox problems because WP8 apps are made to work and look good on all devices, it may not be slimmer but we will not have to worry about the 8 pin connector, and we do not know about simultaneous voice and data but we will learn later on. What do you think? Say so in the comment section!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Allrecipes


         Windows 8 originally started out with 2 cookbooks: Cookbook by Bewise, and icookbook. Now we have 9 food and dining apps available in the store including the Allrecipes and videorecipes apps. I used to use the Cookbook by Bewise app, but it didn't have printing features. This app has a great printing feature, can share to virtually any app, and features the largest library of recipes that I have seen. The live tile is very beautiful and the layout is very intuitive. It could be faster, but that is yet to be seen for the Windows 8 release.


          I have used the website before and was very surprised to see a Windows 8 app. The app opens up in around 3 - 6 seconds or more depending on how many more programs running. After it loads it takes you to a beautiful and slightly cluttered home page. You can log into your account or join to save recipes to your lunchbox. First comes up are ideas and then there is the ingredient section which shows you an ingredient and you can click on it to see recipes to get rid of your bacon from your fridge. There is a lot of creative ideas and recipes and you can always search for a recipe. The search is slow too and can take up to 12 seconds to load. Sharing is one of the Allrecipes app strong suits where I can share to any app that can share. There is a nutrition fact sheet that tells you all the calories and such. Not every recipe has them, but the majority do. There is a review section, but you can't add reviews. is user based, but you can't add recipes. Still this is a stellar app worth your time.


     The app is very well designed and has a lot to love and little to hate. It is the only app that I know of that I visit more than the parent website.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Windows 8 App review: PhotoVault


     Usually I don't give apps 5 star ratings but when an app does everything it says it does pretty snappy it is hard to go lower. The app does have some ground to cover like more content and a sharing function. Still for what it offers it does. Channeling through the high res photos was as smooth as butter even on my T3400 Pentium dual core laptop. The app loads very quickly and the design is pretty simple at its base.


     It loads up very quickly even with a lot of other tasks open. Opening up categories takes around 2-4 seconds and can be a bit tedious waiting. Cycling through photos is very fast and has no lag at all. The pictures do not take up the full screen which is a bit weird, but I guess makes the app go a bit faster. The live tile is very pretty and has different picture from time to time. There are different categories and it is very slow loading them. The app itself is very low on content and the content itself is a bit smaller than it should be. The pictures look of high quality and the app itself is very well designed. Each of the pictures has a little description underneath talking a bit about it. 


     There is not much to say about this app except it could use a little work, but so far so good!!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Friday, August 3, 2012

Windows 8 App review:


     Every good writer needs a very good dictionary. This is my personal recommendation over the middling competition. It has been available since the Consumer Preview, and little has changed except a few bug fixes. It does the job well, but is not the most feature packed app in the store. Also the design is very ho-hum. It does have "articles" called "The Hot Word" which talks about a word or once in a while a language that may seem a bit controversial or interesting. I really like the live tile which has a Word of the day which if you click the tile, go into the app, and click on the word it tells you what it means. The app start up times are slower than average and there is some noticeable lag inside of the app.


     The app may be extremely useful, but performance is very modest if not below average. The app itself is very light at 4.32 MB which should turn out to be very zippy. Sadly it was below expectations with only a word document open. It takes around 4-8 seconds to load almost at the 66MB Star Chart app. The search function is also slow and sometimes will not work if the dictionary app is not open. Still the search works great, and when you search for a word it shows a list of closely spelled words. It does what it advertises well even if a bit slow on some older hardware. I really loved the website and students would find this very functional given the snapped view mode. I love the app and I think you will too.


     I loved the website and no longer visit it thanks to the app! I really love everything about it except the lack of design. 
Rating// 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Fine Cooking


     I have always loved magazines and a good "magazine" app is hard to come by. This app shows true potential among the current crop of preview apps. The other magazine that I have reviewed My History Digest goes with a more web styled approach, but the Fine cooking magazine follows the path the Fine Homebuilder app took: the traditional magazine look and feel. The app has a lot of good features that all work unlike the Homebuilder app, and it also has a beautiful look and is pretty quick in app. The speed stops there. It took me 30 minutes to download 1 issue and there was only two to choose from. I was pretty disappointed at the lack of issues, but that is becoming very common among magazine apps before RTM. Another piece of criticism I have to give is that the text is too small for comfortable use. You are forced to view any content in zoomed view otherwise it is unreadable on a 1366x768 screen (a full HD screen renders text even smaller). In zoomed view you can not leaf to another page which forces you to exit the current view and then leaf over. Currently pages are rendered in two page mode so if it was rendered say in 1 page mode the problem would be fixed.


     Loading the main screen was pretty quick probably because there is nothing there. Loading up a pre-downloaded magazine takes about 4-6 seconds and there are some pictures of recipes that work part of the time. In a design aspect there is a lot of empty space that could be utilized by even a simple Office 15 like theme where they put flowers on the edges or lines you understand. It is not like the issues are even new they are from May and April. After you open your downloaded issue you have two options: 1 go to a recipe or 2 start reading the issue. Navigation is powered by the hated side buttons or if you click in the article you can use the left and right buttons. There is no fancy turning animations and the zoom function is not completely polished. There is a full screen mode which wastes some space on the side and the text is still too small for reading. If you try going through the magazine quickly then it starts to stutter and some pages do not display. There are some other functions like showcasing all of the articles in a grid or strip function. 


     It did not provide the most pleasant experience, but still it laid a good groundwork for what looks to be a solid app come time for the RTM or Windows 8 release.
Rating// 3.8 out of 5

Monday, July 30, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Star Chart


      I have not reviewed any Education apps yet and I am very excited to see one that rivals Google Skymap and Google Earth bringing them both into one good app. I could not try out the Augmented Reality function because I do not have a tablet yet. I will accept any people who would like to donate a Samsung Series 7 or if a Microsoft employee is reading has a Surface Pro lying around with palm block and the type cover I will gladly take one. :) Anyway this is some very cool stuff that the developer Escapist Games has made. One my third time of downloading the app it finally worked to my surprise. It is a very large app at 66MB, but that is expected for a lot of 3D models and a fully featured settings and sharing features. I was very happy to see a good feature packed app that has some decent sharing features. It is the slowest app that I own, and I am not giving it a free pass because it looks nice. There has to be ways to make the app faster on any machine or else it ruins the experience on all machines. If it can run on the Ipad smoothly than by golly they can make it run on Atom tablets!


     I was very disappointed to find an app that takes from 7 - 10 seconds to load. This is totally unacceptable. When it does load the app gets a big quicker, and loads up fast enough. Snapped view is nice and when you click on a star a cool sidebar pops up talking about where it is located, what it is, and has a handy zoom feature to see it up close. Looking at the planets is a lot like Google Earth, but some of the roving features and flight simulators is not here. When you exit the app and come back to it that is where the in app lag begins. Or if you are running other tasks it will take even longer to open the app, and going through settings and charms takes forever. Still if you have a good computer or if they update the app to run on slower hardware better than we may see some better performance. 


     I rarely go into design details on apps because they usually are the same and boring. This has some metro design aesthetics, but it feels like you are actually in the sky. It is not very hard for me to visualize what it would look like for the Augmented Reality mode. Simply you would hold the app to the sky and the e-compass and GPS sensors inside would determine which part of the sky you are looking at and display all of the stars on the map. It works like Google Sky and adding Google Earth modeled stars. The app is very pure and feels distraction free. It also shows you all of the constellations based on how they were modeled in the 15th century which is really cool. The entire catalog of stars is over 120,000 and even has a Search function baked in which is great for finding stars, galaxies, and planets if you have the name or Messier number. It updates in real time and features a night mode which essentially turns everything red. This is an excellently designed app and I would highly recommend schools utilizing this app. Sharing to Wordpress, journal by lifescribe, evernote, e-mail, and Quick Note. It also features a time lapse function that lets you go forward and backward seeing what the sky would look like. This app maintains a good score only because of the high quality design effort that was put into it. 


     HD star models and a beautifully designed app is very hard to give a bad grade. But the lagginess of the app can't be missed which is why it scores 4 out of 5. Check out the slideshow below!!
Rating// 4 out of 5

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Engadget


     Engadget is a widely known source for all things things tech which is why I am reviewing this app. The other tech blogs that have approved Windows 8 apps are Ubergizmo, Appy Geek, and Tom's Hardware. I was surprised more than impressed with the appearance of the Engadget app. For a news blog that has some pretty critical reviews on Operating Systems and most Windows laptops they are not good at making a Windows 8 app. First off the article navigation is pretty solid, but the overall is pretty clunky like a few other apps. The app is a bit like the Ubergizmo setup or the Appy geek which looked like they were based heavily on a more default look.


     I frequent Engadget a lot for tech news and reviews and I thought this app might replace my need to visit the website. I was utterly wrong. First off it shows there is pictures on the home screen, but when you click on an article no pictures in any article. There is a gallery section with pictures oddly enough, but only from recent times. There is a video section with recent videos that do work. The app will never replace the website soon and according to the developer himself it is a "work in progress." Also no Distro app was very disappointing. The app loads up in 2 seconds and in app usage is very laggy. So far there really is no incentive to getting the app except for quick sharing to Facebook or twitter which works surprisingly well. If you do not care about pictures then this app would be great for you since you technically can go to the gallery section. What is surprising is when I go to certain articles from a category list it will not let me share at all stating that the app can't share! I was pretty baffled about this and was very angry. Navigation is very clunky in app at all times. If they took some cues from the Bible+ app I would be satisfied.


     Well I was pretty surprised at a very critical company making an extremely poor app. Tom's Hardware or the regular News App are better. Engadget please make a good Distro app that looks along the lines of a Fine Cooking app. I really love the Android app and hope it looks the same, but metrofied. 
Rating// 3 out of 5

Friday, July 27, 2012

Windows 8 App Review: Journal


     Normally a lot of the apps that are in the lifestyle are very horrible and boring to use. At least 4 of the 9 apps in the section do not belong, and those are the best ones! This app is the best designed app that I have ever seen yet on Windows 8. It is almost finished, but has a long way to go. It takes a considerable way to go and only 5 fonts work. I think it is a bit hard to use on a laptop, but on a tablet it would be a dream. It feels like a real journal with the ability to change the environment and you can move the journal around on your desk. It feels very refreshing and with a tablet it feels surreal. I have never heard of life scribe the developers of this app but kudos to them for making a good app. So far I have only seen the Windows Journal app that provides half of the experience you see here. I am a bit angry for not saving my rantings and ravings as I write because I overloaded the app and it crashed deleting my data, and I did not feel like typing it up again. Also you cannot buy things from the market yet which does not make much sense. The page limit is essentially a money trap to make you buy more journals and the font problem is extremely annoying.


     It takes from 3-7 seconds for the app to load which is understandable for the high demanding graphics, but is much to long for my needs. It does work well enough for day to day use and does not have much noticeable lag. It has crashed on me once when I was trying to turn the page too quick. It does not save where you are at unless you do it manually which is a bit mean and annoying if it crashes. For a really old laptop and a really nice HD app my computer handled it well and the app was so beautiful and hard to resist.  One of the quirks that I hope to resolved soon is the app has 25 fonts listed and only 5 are usable. I have listed all of the problems that I have experienced to the developers of this app and they have said that they will fix it. In regular use the app works well enough to warrant the good reviews it deserves. I really love the Journal because not only because of the UI, but it is an original idea. There are plenty of note apps and games, but there are no other journals in the store.


     This is a great app and the design UI and UX is very unique and beautiful. The faults are very minor and the scrapbook type theme is a bit like the old Memories app from Developer Preview days. The ability to add photos, videos, music, and pictures is really cool. 
Rating// 4.2 of 5

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Windows 8 release date

     Well guess what we know when Windows 8 will be released!!! On October, 26, 2012 we will see droves of people heading to the big box stores: Staples, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target. Amazon will be buzzing with sales, and Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and the other chip makers will have a big quarter. Expect PC sales of over 10 million on day one and many stores selling Windows 8 tablets, laptops, desktops, and even server sales with Windows Home Server 2012. So far we do not have a date for Office 2013, but I can at least tell you that the Windows RT 2013 will be available for Windows RT users. 

Windows 8 App review: Office 2013 CP

   Microsoft Office 2010 PC Home And Student Edition - MSCD04771WI


     Well you might be asking, "This is a desktop app not a Windows 8 app?" Well actually the Office 2013 suite is so metrofied that it feels like a Windows 8 app. The new Office 2013 or Office 15 has some great improvements like, edit PDFs, embedding videos into Word documents, adding social sites, blogging in Word, and many other goodies that some where already in Office, but are now revealed and make it much easier and fun to use. At the bottom of the page you can see some screenshots in the usual slideshow. I have installed: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Onenote, Access, Publisher, and Outlook.

Word 2013

     I was happy to see a host of new features available in Word 2013. To some power users dismay the ribbon is back, but this time it is in a new metro encasement. I really like the addition of embedding videos into word files and the editing of PDFs was a great choice too. Slowly but surely Microsoft is turning the Office suite into a one stop shop powerhouse. Of course small time developers will not like this because their applications that may have converted files are being neglected, but it all works out for the consumer in timely fashion. Touch optimization was not that bad considering the whole rectangle and square approach instead of the old circle approach. It felt a bit under professional with the entire Metro theme compared to 2010 and looked a bit retro and consumer like, but it did the job much better with no lag. I was surprised at how fast text entered and how quick pages loaded. I was pretty happy to see a very clean design and quick performance. Everything is very clean and loads up faster then some metro apps. You can easily customize the background with a couple of different ones from the Start screen. It is a very clean typical metro interface that is very easy to use and I enjoyed using it. Is it touch friendly? Depending on how big your screen is and how many pixels you have. If you have a 1920x1200 AIO than this would be great. On smaller devices it is a big upgrade from Office 14/ 2010, but still has a ways to go. 

     Excel 2013

     I do not use Excel much except when I am at school until I saw the new version. It almost compels me to make up charts that I will not even use (much). It connects to my Sky Drive to keep my spreadsheets anywhere and everywhere. I really like that so I can edit that no matter what I am on with either Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 or Android using the Office Web Apps. I really love the simplified approach of metro and the Excel app really excelled my spreadsheets.

     PowerPoint 2013

      I used PowerPoint a lot in school during Computer class and I think I might have done it easier with the new PowerPoint. The app is not only lighter it runs so much faster and text input is just as buttery smooth as Word. There has been some improvements like adding glow effects and it is so easy to move pictures around. Borrowing from Google's term "Project Butter" everything has been smooth from text to moving from page to page. There has not been that much change for PowerPoint. It is more of a cosmetic change and the integration of social media. The template "store" is very beautiful and looks really cool and touch friendly. I really like the look and feel of the entire suit and PowerPoint was no exception. It does have a uniformity of the entire suite, but I like the look.

     One Note 2013

     The best and probably most used college tool is OneNote. I know a lot of people that do use Word to take notes, but the new and improved OneNote is more than able to take graphs and all other types of statistics and notes of course. It can accept either drawing or typing whatever you choose. This is the only app that the Microsoft team decided to make a Windows 8 full metro app. The metro app is more touch friendly and is built sideways not top down. It is called OneNote MX (as seen above) and looks really cool and is very quick and easy to use. The good thing about it is whenever there is a crash or a bug found it will automatically send a bug report to the Microsoft dev team. It is a bit hard to use, but when you get used to it actually it is very quick and fun to use. I could see someone using it paired with a Asus tab 810 or Surface Pro with a stylus writing down notes super quickly. The desktop app has a lot of more features and looks beautiful and has a little snipping tool. 

     Publisher 2013

     I have only used Publisher twice in my life, but both of those times I fell in love with it. It reminds me of the PowerPoint app with the glow effects and the easy picture swapping. It comes with a little tutorial with some high quality photos probably from a Nikon or Canon dSLR. The tutorial is simply a publisher file with some information about the new features. It is the tool of the advertiser and the student who needs to make pamphlets or any other publication that your little heart may need. In reality there is no other Publisher equal. Google Docs or Open Office do not have anything that has the same level of sophistication or large size of templates. The entire metro feel flowed right through to this app and is excellently shown.

     Outlook 2013

     This is the most used app that I have used in all of my testing Office 15. it can effortlessly open my e-mail accounts faster than gmail or even the mail app for metro. By far the Outlook 2013 is the most changed from Office 2010. Not only does it have metro up top it has it everywhere. It was a bit hard to use at first, but when you get used to it it is fast and easy to use. I really love the entire look and design of the app and it supports pen input and can support multiple inboxes no matter if Imap or POP. It is the most used I have with Word behind it. It is the best e-mail app I have ever used because the mail app does not support e-mail accounts from carriers. It feels like Word and advanced e-mail functions are mixed together. Once again the text is fast and fluid like Word. It works like a dream and I never have had a bug in it yet. 


      I have to say that I was a bit leery of Office 15, but now that I see it is a one stop shop for much of what I do. It provides all of the services you already use in Office 2010 with added functionality, speed, and a beautiful new design. When I type in Word and compare it to Word wins every time. Also the Office 15 suites are not processor hungry unlike Google Chrome or Open Office. I am very happy to use Office 15 and can not wait to test this on a touch enabled laptop.

Rating 5/5



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Free Books


     Doesn't everyone love free stuff? What if you had 23,469 ebooks for free with no catch or ads? Well your wish has come true. Many great authors like Jack London, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Author Conan Doyle, and many others who are renowned authors, scientists, and inaugural addresses. I originally rated the app a one star since it would not load when I first tried to use it, but it finally came around and now I use it more than some other apps. The e-reading experience is bare bones with no settings at all. When I try to go to something else in a different app the app shuts off and displays the splash screen when I do go back. The formatting is a bit bad on some books and others it is a lot better. I rather a nice consistent experience all across the board. What really surprised me was how well it handled the search and share charm features. The search was pretty nice for a pretty bare bones app. There was a simple download function just tap twice and overall it was simple to use since there was nothing to use. It has a large library of information including many Inaugural addresses from many presidents.

pi      Functionality

     This app gives Windows 8 multitasking a bad name. Unless you like looking at the splash screen a lot then don't leave the app or you will get it. It does load up in an average 2.5 seconds and the splash screen looks okay. It loads up to the "My Library" section and since you do not have any books it will show the featured articles, collections, and big authors. The app works very well in snapped mode letting you shop for books, but you have to be in fill or full screen mode to read books. The books are in a kindle like two pane and are not very formatted too much. The share function works with apps like mail, quicknote, and wordpress. The app is built on the website where you can upload free classics and other documents that the public should see.


     This app is really a mixed bag. In some parts like the large library of books and not a bad overall e-reader and has a great search and share charm functions. In other respects there is no option to zoom or reading in snapped mode like the kindle app. I prefer the kindle app because you can leave the app and come back to your page instantly and it has a lot of more bells and whistles to give you a better reading experience. 
Rating 3/5

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Basketball Clipboard


     Well we do know that one basketball team uses the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and this can be a game changer with the right hardware. I may have played basketball, but I am no coach. I have used the app and found it very cool, but it lacking some pretty core features like exporting a play as a video or sharing the play to your team via e-mail or Facebook.


     The app takes a bit long to start up which I thought was long for a light to medium application. I did experience when running a video off of the internet, open word document, and two opened Google chrome tabs that I experienced some crashes when I was in the app which makes it seem very unstable. The app is a bit complex for me because in the app screenshots it has the players with names underneath the little circles. Nowhere in the app command bar or the charm setting bar does it have an option for names underneath the players. It works by you (the coach) creates a play step by step and then saves it to the coaches clipboard in a proprietary file format and has a little tile in your clipboard. It says that there is an option to export your file which is nothing, but it only exports it as an XML file not a video file like an AVI or H.264. Truthfully the app is still a bit lacking in terms of speed with nothing open.


     The app builds on a nice concept and helps prove the point that Windows 8 can cater to all needs in any profession. I will not let the pre-build argument fly here since basic needs are not met with exporting files and sharing. Also a bigger tile would be nice that displayed your plays and a pin to start menu option would be nice too.

Rating// 3.5/5 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Windows 8 App review: TouchMol


       I am a tech writer and blogger not a chemistry wizard so if anyone tells me I did something wrong that is a chemist please tell me. First off it starts up pretty quickly like most other apps. It shows three base chemistry formulas which have some information on them. You can import your own and when the IOS and Android variations launch share them with your friends. This is one of the first apps that I have seen that will go ahead and launch with Windows 8 before IOS or Android. It is a pretty solid app and does all of the functions that it advertises except searching for others creations. I showed it to my mom who loves chemistry and she thought is was very intuitive and cool. She wants to open up a little laboratory and this app paired on my (about to be) Asus tablet 810 with an active digitizer and a 10 point multi touch screen. I could see professional chemists using this to aid them in their investigations. I really do not know much about chemistry save a few basic things so please bear with me.


     Not only does it open up fast it loads up everything fast. Text is very clear and sharp. I was pretty surprised at how the recognition was on my laptop which in my performance test scored 1 FPS and 10 FPS respectively in high and medium graphic tests. I really liked how the app was fully featured and came out before a more popular Android and IOS release. I was very pleased at the overall quickness of it even for a metro app. My only niggle with it was there was only 3 pre-loaded drawings and there was no ability to see what others made as it advertised. 


      I do not use this app much on a day to day basis, but I really like the look and feel and would give it a better rating if it had either a community where others have their drawings or a larger amount of pre-loaded content. 
Rating//: 4.0/5

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The return of the digitizer (UPDATED)

UPDATE: I had to add a lot more devices to the list because this was written before a lot of the devices were put on display in trade shows.  

    When people think of a stylus most think of a resistive screen tablet or a really old smart phone. Most think that the capacitive stylus is a good equal to the active digitizer or the N-trig system. It is very hard to explain the accuracy of the digitizer system. There are two major ones that power different variations of tablets and "phablets." In the tablet section the first digitized tablet was the HTC Flyer with the Scribe pen. It was all around a great tablet, but not marketed very good. The scribe pen was based on a N-Trig system which is a lot better that the capacitive for sure, but is slower than the WACOM system. The next major device that was not a WACOM made tablet like the boogie board (these are tabs without real OSes) was the Samsung Series 7 slate which was the official Windows 8 DP tablet that was huge and featured a WACOM active digitizer and horrible battery life and a overall forgettable experience. Combined with a really bad rear 3.2 mp camera and a huge unwieldy 1366x768 it was nothing to write home about. Of course do you think that artists want to carry a 12.1 inch tablet (Samsung Series 7 or Asus Ep/Bp 121) with paltry screen resolution and bad rear cameras which force them to use a dSLR or comparable mega zoom which makes them carry a lot of stuff. Or do you think with new advancements in active digitizer design's since then will they go for a 10.6 inch or even a large but super thin 11.6 inch design that offers better rear camera's and Super IPS + displays with full HD displays that also cost less?  Some trade offs are power in some like the Asus tablet 810 others are size like the Asus transformer book. The best solution is another Windows 8 official tablet the Surface Pro. Even though it is coming out a full 3 months later than the Surface RT it will be powered by an Intel core i5 Ivy Bridge and will start with a 64GB SSD. It will be a pretty svelte device at only 13.6mm which is a tad bit thicker than the MBA, but consider having a 10 finger multi touch screen and an active digitizer layer that features some pretty nice stuff like an eraser, or when you are writing and you put your finger on the screen it will stop writing and move the page or zoom in and out with your finger. Now we know a lot of the answers about the Surface pro because it is available. With a starting price of $999 it is not very cheap but packing an intel core i5 ivy bridge throttled CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 5 hours of battery life it makes up for the price.

      Another potential in the high powered, large, WACOM packing tablet sector is the Asus Transformer book series. This one is very diverse in options with a 11.6, 13, and 14 inch variations all with 4GB RAM and a front 2MP Full HD webcam and a rear 5MP camera which is good for taking concept pictures, but with a 14 inch it might be a bit hard to steady it. These unlike the Surface Pro like the Android Transformer series have a detachable keyboard, but unknown to us if it adds extra battery life or not. What is very unique in an ultrabook is the 14 inch will come with an optical drive for making DVDs and Cd's or just watching a movie. The thin factor is hard to beat and intel core innards (some report all three ivy bridge 3,5,7 will be available) is very powerful for Photoshop, Autodesk, and other tasks. Also a Full HD screen is a big plus with a Super IPS + panel too it makes for some stiff competition. 

     Another Asus make is the middle of the road priced Asus tablet 810 from the Eee PC family. There are a couple of things that make it a budget tablet that still feels like a premium device. The first is the Intel Atom processor. Even though they have come very far in producing an overall better product it is still a budget processor. The tablet runs on a Clover field chip 1.86 GHz dual core CPU with 4 hyper threads. It does come with a Super IPS + panel to help with glare issues, but that budget price makes it a 1366x768 lack luster screen resolution. After that the budget seams stop and the beauty of a premium product shows. An 8.7 mm thin design is thinner than the Ipad 2 or 3 and it still manages to fit in a mini HDMI port, headphone, and docking ports in the tablet itself. Like it's more expensive brothers and sisters it has a removable docking station that boosts the battery life from 8 hours to 16+ hours. Also a separate charging port and 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports abide in the rear of the dock. The WACOM digitizer and docking station come included which really makes this a steal if it is $599  but sadly they priced it at a whopping $799 without the dock.

      All in all the active digitizer market is not dead it is still alive among professional people like photographers and artists. I think the digitizer is a great addition to the Windows Journal since digitizers have palm rejection built in. The Android tablet space does have some N-trig friends from Samsung like the Galaxy Note "phablet" and the Galaxy Note 10.1 inch tablet that both feature the S-Pen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Surface as I see it

     The Microsoft Surface is a very unique being that was launched a few weeks back and it took the entire tech world by storm. There were many questions left answered and unanswered and everyone had mixed views when leaving MILK studios. The Surface has two variants: 1 Surface RT which is launched at the same time as Windows 8. Most likely we will see the Surface and Windows 8 at some kind of event with Windows Phone 8 and probably have some other ground breaking news like Windows 8 will launch with 100,000 apps (for WP8 and Windows 8/RT). 2 Is the Surface Pro which will be launched three months after the Windows 8 launch with (speculating) the new Xbox 720/8 machine. The Surface machines have their own dedicated website with some specs and a gallery of photos. So far we have only seen two "accessories" that look like they will come with the devices depending on which one you buy. The Surface RT looks like it will get the touch cover that comes in five different colors that works like a big tablet with a slightly raised surface that the keys you touch with no tactile feedback. Then the Surface Pro looks to come with their innovative type cover that is a little thicker and comes with keys that provide a tactile feedback and only in black. Also the Surface Pro will come with a Wacom active digitizer that looks buttery smooth in action. So if you really want the full Windows 8/7 side with an intel core i5 processor and unknown amount of RAM the Windows 8 Pro running Surface Pro is really the best out there. There is no flex from the magnesium made casing and they are both super slim considering they both sport USB ports. Also the MagSafe connector can (as per a patent) not only charge the device but transfer files. The Surface is a halo device. 

     The Surface is made to force other OEMs to make better devices than what is currently out there to beat Apple at their own game. The Surface is the epitome of quality and beauty in a slim and functional shell. The surface is very impressive and the specs are very good. The one thing is price. Everyone has their own quote and since it is a premium product it will be at a premium price. I think the RT version will go for $499 for the 32GB version to try and undercut the Ipad. The RT 64GB will roll at $599. The Pro 64GB will be $699 also beating the Ipad competition and the 128GB model will go for $799. The touch covers will come with the RT versions and the type cover will come with the Pro models. Of course this is all speculation, but isn't that what everyone else is doing?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Windows 8 App Review: Tom's Hardware


      In all of my searching for a good solid tech news app that was simple to use and covers all the latest news Tom's Hardware fits the bill. It is a good, easy to use, and works great in Windows 8. Some qualms are when I want to scroll inside of the article and not the sidebar it will not work. Also it does follow the same design rules as other Windows 8 news since the articles flow from top to bottom not left to right. It feels very industrial, but it works very well and it still looks metro enough with a great live tile that works. Also the app is not designed to work in snapped mode which is not good when you are looking something up on the internet and want to read it from your favorite app but can't even though how the app with the already top to bottom approach should fit right into snapped mode. 


     The app loads in 2 seconds and brings you to the home screen which has reviews and news right there. If you want to see all of the reviews you simply click on the reviews ribbon and it will display all of the reviews in a metro tile like formation. I was pretty happy with the snappiness of the app itself and it overall had a lot of good content in both their news and reviews and it did not feel like a "white box" app. They did not conform to what the other big names are reviewing like Engadget or The Verge. I did try Ubergizmo but it felt really ugly and did not provide what I was looking for in an app and if I did a review on it it would get a 2 at least. It really shined in every way except for a couple of things. 1 Scrolling in the app with a keyboard is useless. You have to use the scroll bar to go down in the app which really shows that going side to side is a lot better and more easier to use.


     I saw the Tom's Hardware app and was very satisfied with its performance and surprisingly it provides a lot of content that is enough for me to use without a website which is rare for Windows 8 apps. I am very happy with the overall performance of the app except for a few quirks which I expected in a pre release app. I highly suggest this app which provides unparalleled performance from other apps like Appy Geek or Ubergizmo.
Rating// 4/5 


Windows 8 App review: My History Digest


     The My History Digest is a magazine style app that currently showcases some premium looking articles that are pretty in depth into history. I really like the layout of the application and think other magazines or news websites like, The Verge, Engadget, and Better Homes and Garden should really follow the History Digest route. There are two other apps that follow a real magazine layout like this are the Fine Home building and the Telegraph which I both do not use (yet). The layout has a consistency with the horizontal scrolling of Windows 8 that shows itself in the start screen and the Windows Store. The My History Digest is an excellent looking app that is designed nicely but the content situation is very bad with only 3 articles. Still there is so much information there it might be enough to satisfy your history buff self. 


     The one good thing about the My History Digest is the premium app feel. It loads first time in around 3 seconds which is faster than Slap Dash Podcast and opens up to the screenshot seen above. Surprisingly for a free app that is a magazine it has very little lag when going between articles. Sadly there has been a lot of reading apps in the Windows Store (You version Bible, Bible Pronto, Free Books) that have some lag between turning pages and the Free Books app has horrible formatting. The lag is only when you turn pages in an article which is very annoying. Instead of the Wikipedia approach they took the Free books approach that is these little side buttons you press that we saw in the original Kindle app. Still they are a lot more responsive than the ones found in the You version Bible app. You can see the design and effort that was put into this app that really makes it shine far above many apps. There maybe only 3 articles but remember this is not a big company behind this project like the History channel that can fund it and how many writers work for no pay. Remember that this project looks like a group of developers, graphic designers, and History guru's converged and decided to make a Windows 8 app.


      This app is very eye catching and even with only 3 articles they are jam packed with a lot of information and is very well displayed. My only two quirks are the annoying side bars which may be more responsive than others that I have seen. Also it is short on content which I think since the articles are probably 3,000 + words are being hammered out and lay in preparation for Windows 8 as we speak.