Category Archives: Technology

Why the $99 HP TouchPad is a good purchase [Updated ]


[Updated 09/16/2011]

As a WebOS fan, I’ve been following the rise (kind of), abrupt and sudden fall, and finally the launch of the now defunct TouchPad by HP.   I certainly wanted one when the product was launched, but felt them a little pricey.  Then, came the sudden announcement that the product was killed a mere seven weeks into its life.  At that point, I no longer desired one.  Then, like a great mystery, the plot turned once again.  Now, they were $99 and like an apparently very large portion of the US consumer market, I wanted one again.  I was one of the unfortunate people caught in order limbo thinking I had one, only to have my order abruptly canceled a few days later.

So, here I am.  On the outside looking in. I’m not going to use this space to rail on the shortsightedness and lack of vision by HP. That would just be too easy.  Instead, I’ve read a fair amount of articles on why you should or should not buy one.   There are a number of them out there for your reading pleasure, but I’ve especially got to thank Bill Palmer at Beatweek for his heavy handed post that thrashed the idea of buying a TouchPad altogether.  I hope that a great many people read his article.  It will make it that much easier for me to pick one up.  In response to this post, I’m going to give you ten reasons why a $99 TouchPad is a great pickup (if you can get one)

  1. By adding the Kindle App, you get more than a Kindle for less than the price of a Kindle.  Email, browser, games, etc.  That would probably be enough, but wait.  There’s more………
  2. A FREE 50GB of storage at box.net.  That’s a $19.99 value that can be shared amongst your family.
  3. Flash!   Despite what they’d have you believe, HTML5 is not yet all the way here.  So, when you are ready to lose Apple’s Interent training wheels, you can reach for ‘that other pad’ and experience the rest of the Internet.  There are a lot of well done Flash sites out there.  It would be a shame to miss some of them.
  4. It’s a great way to un-tether from your computer.  What do most people use their tablets for?  Checking email, Twitter, Facebook, surfing the web, etc.  The TouchPad does all of that.
  5. WebOS is a great operating system.  It is easy enough that all but the most dense among us will be able to start using it productively right away.  Also, despite it’s limited lifespan in hardware, HP is still actively developing the operating system.  They really want to license the os (good luck), but if need be, they will sell it.    That would be a lot more difficult if they shuttered the project and fired all of the engineers that work on it.
  6. The Android community is very actively working on a port.  For the more technically inclined among us, you’ll be able to to run Android on some dandy hardware within the coming weeks.  Where else are you going to find an Android tablet on this kind of hardware for $99?  That’s right.  Nowhere.  For the even more geeky, there is an active project that’s porting Ubuntu Linux to the pad.  Both the Android and Ubuntu projects are currently booting from a USB stick.  Therefore, you could ultimately have your choice of three operating systems on the same hardware without any of them interfering with the others.  Where else are you going to get that?
  7. You are NOT running a big risk of getting a virus.  This is just silly. Like I said before, the operating system is still actively being developed.  Any security holes that would crop up will be addressed at least for the near term, and that’s all we’re really looking at here (see note 10). Additionally, WebOS is Linux.  It springs from the same tree as the Android and is a close cousin to iOS.  While not impervious to malware, because of the nature of Unix/Linux it’s just a lot harder to pull off and there’s just less malware out there for the platforms.
  8. If you want to get your kids a netbook, this would make a nice alternative.  There is a document editing app called Quick Office that comes with the TouchPad and Picsel Smart Office should be available within a few weeks.  It’s a great machine for simple homework and research.
  9. App developers are still actively writing apps for WebOS.  It is true that many have jumped ship and some may never return, but the fact remains that HP will wind up selling about a million TouchPads before they close the books on it for good.  That’s a million potential software buyers.  Somebody is going to meet that market even if it’s only a niche.  You won’t have the volume of apps that are available for the iPad or the Android tablets, but you WILL have options.  The second part of this is, there WILL be accessories available.  This pretty much matches my point above.  A million devices is simply going to be too much for some manufacturers to resist.  Going back to the days of Palm, WebOS fans are rabid and they will buy.  With a million devices in the wild, there will be more WebOS fans.
  10. The lifecycle of the TouchPad is going to be about the same as it will be for any other tablet.  Apple already has an end of life in mind for the iPad and iPad 2.  Don’t believe me?  Ask any iPhone 3G owner how their phone is doing.  Planned obsolescence will take the iPads out every two to three years.  You’ll be tossing out your TouchPad about that same time.  The only difference will be that you spent 1/5 to 1/8 for the TouchPad (assuming you are fortunate enough to land one for $99) and probably a lot less for apps over the course of that time.

The TouchPad may be discontinued, but it’s far from dead.  It’s a limited life appliance just like all of the other tablets on the market.  Spending $99 and using the device for two years will be money in your pocket.  Two years from now, iPad and iPad 2 owners, as well as current Android tablet owners will be actively looking to replace their tablet with the latest and greatest just like you.  The only difference is, you’ll be money ahead.

To Mr. Palmer, please write a few more scathing articles.  You’ll be doing the rest of us a favor.

Windows and Flash show up on the iPad.


Well, kind of.  Parallels 6 has been released, and along with it, Parallels Mobile.   Parallels Mobile allows you use an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad to remotely access a virtual session running in Parallels on a Mac.  An active Parallels account and a registered virtual machine are required.  Also, requires 3G or WiFi.  This is essentially a remote desktop connection to a running virtual machine on the Mac and  I’m not sure how useful it is, but watching Windows 7 using gestures on an iPad makes the video below very enjoyable on many levels.

Is the Apple getting soft? Flash created apps are off the naughty list for the iPhone.


Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple has announced a sudden reversal in its development conditions for its mobile devices today.  Back in April, Apple announced that the only development platform that could be used to create apps for its mobile devices was the Apple SDK (software development kit), which only runs on a Mac.  Fortunately, Cupertino has had a change of heart.  It is now just fine to develop apps with other development platforms, provided the apps don’t download any code.  Time will tell how badly the ‘no download’ condition will hamstring developers, but this is a move in the right direction.

Apple says that it has “listened to our developers”.  I’m not quite sure who they were listening to back in April when they pulled the plug on third-party development platforms.  Perhaps what they heard as they listened this time was the footsteps of developers heading to less restrictive platforms such as Android?  Regardless, it’s a win for pretty much everyone.  Adobe wasted no time in responding with glee because developers can now develop for iOS with Flash Professional CS5.  Note, that doesn’t mean that Flash will work in your web browser on your iOS devices now, it just means more sales for Adobe’s development platform.  Ultimately, it’s a win for users.  More developers will be able to develop for iOS devices now, and that means more apps for users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

In addition, Apple has announced they are publishing guidelines for how the app store review process works.  This is designed to give developers a better idea of how the review process works and presumably a better shot at getting their apps approved.

Related: Mobile Crunch

A Front Facing Camera for the Next iPad?


It’s been rumored for quite a while that the next iPad will ship with a front facing camera and FaceTime.  As of now that’s still, well, a rumor.  However, the folks at 9to5 Mac and CrunchGear are posting the picture to the right and reporting it is a video chat debug in the next generation iPad firmware.  It’s such an obscure shot that I can’t believe I’m even talking about it, but it would seem the next logical step in the iPad’s evolution.  This brings a  few question to mind.  Upgrading my phone every couple of years seems fairly logical because they take a lot of abuse and they are subsidized to the point of being fairly inexpensive.  What about the iPad?  It’s a larger investment.   How often will iPad owners be willing to upgrade?  Also, with a slew of pads reportedly rushing to the market based on Android, WebOS, Windows 7, etc., is anyone going to beat Apple to the punch by including a front facing camera and video chat software?  If they do, does it really matter?  Is FaceTime already king?  Apple has promised to release its protocol secrets for FaceTime.  If they follow-up with that, we may see some wonderful interoperability with other devices.  If they don’t release the protocols, will they release FaceTime to other platforms?  So many questions from the possibility of simply adding a camera to a tablet.

What are your thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear your comments.

A Better Battery Gauge


Laptop users know the standard battery gauge that Windows uses leaves much to be desired.  It’s very small and doesn’t offer much information.  Fortunately there are alternatives.  One of them is Battery Bar from  Osiris Development.   For starters, battery bar sits on the task bar and is much larger than the standard Windows battery icon and therefore much easier to see.  That feature alone is worth the price of admission, but it offers more.

The BatteryBar icon easily shows 3:17 remaining on the battery compared to the standard Windows icon.

Clicking on the BatteryBar icon changes it from percentage of charge / discharge to a runtime / charge time format in hh:mm.

Hovering over the BatteryBar icon provides a wealth of information.

When hovering over the BatteryBar icon, a popup appears with additional information including the percentage of battery wear, which will be particularly useful for road warriors who will want to have advanced notice of impending battery doom.

BatterBar with the laptop running on battery.

BatteryBar comes in a free and a paid version.  The free version contains all of the features listed above and should work well for most users.  The paid version is inexpensive and comes with some extra features such as graphing of battery profiles.   BatteryBar is light on resources and offers up necessary information in an easy and straightforward manner.  BatteryBar is available for Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.  The free version can be had here.

USB generated infections on the rise.


IT security company Panda has announced that 25% of the new worms in 2010 were designed to be spread via USB device.

What does this mean?

A growing number of computer infections are taking place via USB devices such as thumb drives, external hard drives, mobile phones, portable music players, etc.  These infections take place silently when the device is plugged into the computer via the autorun process in Windows.  While computer worms are still mainly spread via email, this report indicates that a newer method for spreading malware is gaining significant momentum and once again gives us cause to remain vigilant when it comes to computer security.  Of course, before you can get infected by a USB device, that device first has to be infected somewhere else which means this is something that is much less likely to come from your phone or mp3 player (unless you loan it to someone) than it is from an external hard drive or thumb drive.

What should I do?

First, never trust a foreign device.  If you don’t know the origins of the device, consider it hostile.   USB thumb drives are extremely cheap these days.  So cheap that many are given away as schwag at trade shows and expos.  How easy would it be for a bad guy to accumulate a bunch of these, infect them, then ‘lose them’ outside of targeted businesses or homes?  When an unassuming employee comes along, they pick it up, plug it in, and suddenly there’s a corporate infection for the IT department to deal with.    If this is an as of yet unidentified piece of malware, a considerable amount of damage could be done by the time it is found out.  If you find a USB drive, throw it away or hand it in to your IT department.  If you absolutely must know what is on it, boot up from an Ubuntu Live CD and check it out.  That will keep you from getting the infection.  If you are in an environment that requires you to swap flash drives with people, downloading the free USB Vaccine from Panda is a good move.  This will disable the autorun feature for USB devices in Windows.  Just be warned, it will stop the autorn feature from working with external CD drives as well.  But, if you are in an environment that uses flash drives, it’s worth the inconvenience.   Of course, following these steps is essential as well. Above all, be vigilant.  If for instance, you loan the compact flash card from your camera to someone, it could come back with malware on it.  When you plug your camera back into your computer, you’ve got it.   Treat every USB device like it’s a flash drive.  Treat every flash drive that’s been out of your possession as suspect.

PalmPad on the way, but too late for Christmas


According to PreCentral and intomobile, HP has officially confirmed a tablet based on WebOS.  No information on pricing or delivery just yet other than early 2011.  Will HP throw up a worthy competitor to the iPad or will it be an also ran?  Time will tell.

See also, CrunchGear.