Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor


November 30, 2011  7:31 PM

MS Office for the iPad



Posted by: Dave Bateman
iPad, Office

There are a number of apps for the iPad that allow you to open and edit MS Office documents. I have used a many of them, and I haven’t found one that is able to keep the formatting correct. Most do a fairly good job, but they just aren’t able to make many documents looks the same as they do on a PC. That may all change if what the Daily is reporting is true.

According to the Daily, Microsoft is going to be releasing an official MS Office app for the iPad sometime next year. They claim that an unnamed source has confirmed this and the release should occur sometime before the next release of Office for Mac hits the street.

The real surprise of this story is the rumored price. The Daily claims that the price is going to be be around $10. It wasn’t clear if this was going to be $10 for the entire suite or $10 per product (Word, Excel, etc.), which is similar to how Apple sells their office type apps. Regardless if it is $10 per product or for the whole suite, that seems a little low for Microsoft. If it really does come in at this price, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to make it a yearly subscription. On the other hand, this whole rumor may prove to be just that, a rumor. I guess we will find out next year.

November 29, 2011  10:33 PM

Sweet Technology



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Andoird, Pocket PC

If you have been keeping up with the various versions of Android, you have notice by now that they like to name them after sweet things like Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich. Recently a hardware manufacturer has followed suit and created a device they call, Cotton Candy and I have to say, it is one sweet device.

It is a pocket size, dual core computer that currently runs Android. It is about the size of a USB memory stick and can be connected to anything that has a USB port and a screen. It also has an HDMI port, Micro SD port, WiFi, and Bluetooth. The thing is incredibly small considering everything that is packed in it.

While it is currently running Android, it can also run Ubuntu or a visualized client for Windows or MAC. The idea is that you plug it into your PC and run android apps in a window or plug it into your TV and share content with others in the room. This products is created by a company called FXI and, while no release date has been announced, the hope is that when it is released it will cost under $200.

The potential for this device is huge. This is definitely one of those devices that I will be keeping an eye on.


November 29, 2011  1:06 PM

Android App Store Alternatives



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Android

If you have an Android device, you are most likely familiar with the Android Market. This is the most popular place to get apps for Android devices. However, it is not the only place. Unlike Apple devices, you are not locked down to just one service from which you can acquire apps.

There are two main reasons you may want to explore alternative app stores. The first is that your device is not able to access the Android Market. While most Android devices are able to access the Market Place, there are a few devices that can’t, the most popular being the Kindle Fire. The other reason is that you may be able to find an app for a lower price at one of the alternative stores.

While there are a number of places that you can download Android apps, you do need to be careful. If you are not careful, you could download a malicious app. Just recently an app that masqueraded as the Netflix app was discovered. It captured the user’s account information and posted it to a server. So while alternative stores can be of use, you need to make sure you are certain that what you are installing is safe.

Below are a few alternative stores.

Amazon App Store – This is probably the second most popular Android app service. You can use this service on pretty much any Android device. The best part of this store is that they offer an app for free each day. I have been able to get popular 15 dollar apps for free. You just need to make sure you check every day.

GetJar – This service has been around for a while and even predates the Android OS. While it offers apps for many mobile platforms, the selection of Android apps is fairly good. This site also offer apps for free from time to time.

Freewarelovers.com – This site isn’t exactly an app store, but rather a site that hosts many of the popular (and not so popular) free apps. Most of of these apps can be found on the Android Market, but if your device is able to access that, this might be a place to find the app you are looking for.

There are a number of sites other than the official Amazon Market that can help find the app you are looking for, but just remember to be careful. Make sure you research the site before you download apps from it and even then there is no guarantee. Malware has even made it in to the Android Market. So in the end remember, “Caveat Emptor.”


November 24, 2011  8:56 AM

Must Have Kindle Fire Apps



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Android, Kindle fire

I have been using the Kindle Fire for almost a week now, and I still really like it. It has been my go to device for tasks that don’t require a PC for this last week, but they may change as the novelty wears off. Between it and my iPad I have been using it much more. While the device is good, like most devices of this type, it is only as good as its apps. By now you have heard that you can not access the Official Android Marketplace. But not to worry, you can access the Amazon app store. While the Amazon app store has plenty of apps, you may find that there are apps that you can not find there. When this happens, all is not lost. There are a number of other apps stores on the Internet (just Google alternate android app stores). Also, if you happen to have the app file for the app you want to install, you can always sideload it. I mention this because not all of the apps on my must have list are in the Amazon app store, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them on your Kindle Fire.

So, without further adieu here is my list of the Kindle Fire must have apps:

FireFox (not in the Amazon app store)- Yes, I know that the Fire has a built in browser that promises to be faster than anything you have ever used before. While the browser works fine, I like having access to all of the FireFox plugins.

Netflix (in store) – There’s nothing like watching a movie while you are waiting for your next flight. Of course, you will need a WiFi connection to watch anything. If all else fails, just tether it to your cell.

PC Remote Control App – There are a few apps to choose from. Loginmein can be found on the Amazon app store, but if $29.99 is a bit steep for you, you can always try Teamviewer.

Office App – Whether you need to create an Excel spreadsheet or just view one you will want to have an Office document app available. You can choose from Quickoffice Pro or Documents To Go. Both cost $14.99. I have both, and I personally prefer Quickoffice.

ES File Explorer (in store) – In order to view and manage the files on the Fire, you will need a file manager.

CalenGoo (in store)- One of my disappointments with the Fire is that it doesn’t have a built in calendar. However, for a mere $2.99 you can fix that by purchasing CalenGoo. It is a fairly simple calendar app that will sync with your Google calendar.

Readitlater (in store) – While surfing on the Fire, I find many things that I want to store for later reference. I use Readitlater to store and retrieve these pages. Since I use FireFox, I am able to save the page directly to ReaditLater with just a couple of clicks.

Email – I almost didn’t mention this app since it is built in, but if you plan to use the Fire as anything more than an e-reader, you will most certainly want to use it for email. Just keep in mind that the built in email app doesn’t support Exchange.


November 20, 2011  10:41 AM

Kindle Fire -Three Days Later



Posted by: Dave Bateman
iPad, Kindle fire, Tablet

My last post described my thoughts on the Kindle Fire after using it for just thirty minutes. Now, three days later, let’s see if they have changed at all. So, if you read my earlier post, you know that I was pleased with the Kindle Fire and only had three minor issues with it. They were and still are, the position of the power button, where they placed the period on the keyboard and the sensitivity of the touch screen. The more I use it the less these issues annoy me, mostly because I am aware of them and have learned to work around them.

So what else have I learned in three days? I have learned that the success or failure of this device will have a lot more to do with what it is, rather than what it is not. I have been reading other reviews and there seems to be a lot of comparing going on. Everyone wants to compare it to an iPad. It’s not an iPad and it never claimed to be. However, it is more than an e-reader. No matter how hard Amazon tries to stay away from the term tablet, it is just that. How good of a tablet? Well, that depends on what you want to do with a tablet. Below are the things that I use a tablet for:

Email
Surfing
Writing Blogs
Calendaring
Reading Books and Magazines
Watching Videos (Streamed and Stored)
Reading Blogs
Viewing Photos
Playing Games

The good news is that I can do all of these things using the Kindle Fire. However, it is better for some of these things than others. Let me break down what it does very well and not so well.

What it does well – Reading, surfing, and videos. It’s a Kindle so, of course, it is a good e-reader. When it comes to surfing, I found the speed and overall experience to be more than adequate. There are those out there complaining about the speed when surfing, but I haven’t had any issues with it. I have used it to watch streaming and stored videos and it does a nice job. I didn’t say it would replace your 60 inch HD LED TV, but it will suffice for those times that watching on a smaller screen is more convenient.

What is does OK – Email, calendaring, and gaming. The email client that comes with it allows you to access most any type of personal email account. Note I said “personal.” Exchange is not supported. When it comes to calendaring, there is one major caveat -  the Fire does not include a calendaring client. I purchased an app called CalenGoo. It is a nice little calendar app that syncs with Google calendar. The main thing that makes the Fire nice for playing games is the size. It is just the right size for handheld type gaming.

What it does poorly - Writing and photo viewing. Using this device to compose letters and such is possible, but not the most pleasant of tasks. The main reason for this is due to the size of the device. If you enjoy creating long documents on your phone, then you will love doing it on the Fire. If you don’t then, while the Fire will be a bit more pleasant than your phone, you will most likely want to stick to using your laptop. As for viewing photos, saying that it is poor may not be fair. It does a fine job viewing them once you get them on the device. Since there is no camera on the device, you will have to upload the photos in order to view them. While I didn’t find this difficult, I can see it causing a challenge to many people that might purchase this device.


November 19, 2011  10:13 AM

Thirty Minutes With the Kindle Fire



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Kindle, Tablet

I finally got my Kindle Fire today. I say finally because it seems like other people have had them forever even though they have only been out a few days. I thought I would do something a little different for a review. Instead of offering an in depth review of the device, I thought I would share my thoughts about the device after only using it for thirty minutes. I know it’s not the fairest way to evaluate something, but you know what they say about first impressions.

Right off the bat I can tell you that I won’t be returning this device. I like it. There is something about it that just feels right. As a matter of fact, I am using it to write the first draft of this post. I don’t think I will make a habit of it, but I think I could use it to right blogs while traveling rather than digging the laptop out from the over head bin. Anyway, back to the way it feels. Many people have described it as being heavier than they expected. While it is heavier than it looks, the weight is one of the things I like about it. I feel like I am holding something of substance when it is in my hands. The size is also nice. I really like the 7 inch form factor. It is big enough to watch a movie or read a book, and the size seems almost perfect for playing handheld games. It seems to me that the screens on most phones are too small for gaming, and the iPad is sometimes too big, especially when playing dual stick shooter type games.

I put the device through its paces by reading a book, a magazine, playing a few games, purchasing a few apps, surfing, and watching some video via the Netflix app. Overall the first thirty minutes has not disappointed, but there are a few things about the device that I found to be less than perfect.

First there is the power button. It is at the bottom of the device. When holding it in the portrait position, which means if you let the bottom rest in a stand, the device will power off. This is also a problem when holding it landscape as it is easy for your hand to press it by mistake. If they had just recessed the button,  this would have solved this issue.

Next there is the period on the keyboard. It is right next to the space bar and you end up hitting it instead of the space bar about thirty percent of the time. Maybe with practice I will get used to this.

The only other minor issue is the touch screen is sometimes too sensitive. This is primarily an issue when swiping though the apps on the main screen. It doesn’t seem to stop when you want it to.

Even though I spend the past three paragraphs telling you what is wrong with this device, I have to end by saying it is well worth the price and, for many people, a better option than an iPad. I will explain why that is in a future post.


November 13, 2011  9:56 AM

Is Flash Dead?



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Adobe, Apple, flash

Early this week Adobe announced that they were going stop the development of mobile flash. While this came as surprise to many, it really shouldn’t have. Remember a few years ago when everyone was up in arms because the iPad wasn’t going to support Flash? That was the beginning of the end for mobile Flash. It turns out that Flash needed the iPad more than the iPad needed Flash.

With the increased support for HTML5, the need for Flash is dwindling. I know when I first started using the iPad there were a number of sites that were difficult to navigate due to the absence of Flash support. Over the years that has become less and less the case.

So back when the Apple vs. Flash war began, where were you putting your money? Many were certain that Apple would cave and eventually support Flash. I bet even those that didn’t think Apple would cave are surprised that mobile Flash is fading away so quickly.

So does this mean that Flash is going to die? I don’t think so. Flash is still a very powerful and valuable platform, just not in the mobile market. If you ever used a flash enabled device, you know why that is. The experience just isn’t as fluid.

Adobe now says that they are going to focus their resources on providing tools for Flash developers to convert tier flash files on to native mobile apps using Adobe AIR. So while this news may come as surprise to some, I don’t think it will cause much of a wave in the mobile platform. The largest impact this announcement is likely to make is to the 750 people that are going to be let go because of this change in Abodes focus. May they all find gainful employment quickly.


November 4, 2011  8:49 AM

Some Would Choose an iPhone Over Better Pay



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Cisco

Cisco just released a study that claims many younger job seekers would consider taking a job that pays less but includes things like a smart phone or access to Facebook while at work. This may sound extremely odd to those us that have been in the working world longer than we would like to admit. But it is a new world out there and access to these types of things are very important. The study claims that 40% of college students would accept a lower paying job if it included things like a smartphone, access to Facebook, and the ability to work from home. I can see the ability to work from home as being a motivating factor, but access to Facebook, really? As a matter of fact, more than half of the students surveyed said that if an employer blocked access to Facebook they would either not work there or find a way around it.

These finding may surprise some people. I know they did me. But it’s a new world out there and things that the younger generation value is changing. To further illustrate this, the study reports that more than half of the respondents would rather lose their wallet than their smartphone. While this report offers some interesting insight for employers that are looking to attract younger talent, it raises other questions. Will these individuals that would prefer Facebook access over pay spend so much time on Facebook that they won’t be worth the lower pay? I also can’t help but wonder how important access to Facebook is going to be once they start having to pay for rent, food, gas, water, heat, and the list goes on. Maybe they can use their Facebook access to ask mom and dad to send money.


October 31, 2011  12:23 PM

The New BlackBerry, Only $2000



Posted by: Dave Bateman

Nope, you didn’t read the title wrong. As you know, the iPhone and Android devices have not been helping BlackBerry sales all that much. Well, RIM isn’t going to take this laying down. They have a new secret weapon. One that is sure to turn the tables. It is a new limited edition Porsche design P’9981 device. So what is so special about this device? Well, to start with, it has a retail price of $2000 and well, that’s about the only thing that is special about it, other than it was designed by Porsche.

You can check it out here. You may notice that at the bottom of the page there is a link titled, “You may also be interested in…” and it shows the Bold 9900. The reason you might be interested in it is because it has the same exact internal specs as the P’9981 but doesn’t come with a $2000.00 price tag. I am not sure what is crazier, the fact that there is a $2000 BlackBerry or the fact that there is someone out there that is going to buy one.


October 30, 2011  3:17 PM

iPad in the Classroom



Posted by: Dave Bateman

There is no mistaking that the iPad has made a huge impact. It’s kind of funny but before it existed, no one knew they needed one. Even now, many people feel there is no need for one. Most of those people have never used one. Sure, maybe they picked one up at the local store and spent five minutes playing around before dismissing it. But you have to spend a little time with this device before you understand why you need one. The beauty of the iPad is that as you use it you start to discover other applications for it. I am not talking about the apps you load on it but rather real world applications for it.

One example of this is how I plan to use it next week. I will be teaching a class in which a number of PowerPoint slides will be presented. If you are anything like me, you don’t find PowerPoint slides all that engaging. I plan to use my iPad as a secondary display that will mirror what is on the screen (I am using an app called Splashtop to do this). I will then be able to interact with the slides by marking them up on the iPad. The markups I make will appear in real time on the screen in the front of the classroom. I will be able to do all this while walking around the room. I hope that by adding some “life” to the slides the students will be more engaged. There is also something to be said for the “WOW” factor. I remember the first time I used a tablet PC and marked up PowerPoint slides. During the next break a number of student came up to the desk to find out what device allowed me to write on the screen. It really added another level to the presentation.

So, what applications have you discovered for your iPad? I’d love to hear what others are doing.


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