Ainol Novo 7 Advanced Review


I have access to an iPad. It’s great at home but a lug around on the road, for quick reference stuff. I have an iPhone, it’s great on the road, but screen is a bit small if you are doing more than 5 mins work, or reading simple email. For editing docs, forget it

So, when an android tablet came my way for under ¬£100, with a 7″ screen and the capability of running ICS, i took my chance.

Packaging was superb, in a nice triple layered box, containing the device, the charger, and various USB cables for updates, etc. also included is a lovely manual. Only one issue, it’s in Chinese!

Off to the web then, there is some great info on gadgetfreakz.co.uk
The unit came with 2.3 gingerbread installed. The web suggested 4.0.3 is possible.
The downloads from gadgetfreakz were fine, it’s just the method is odd. You have to plug in to USB, while holding down the power button, and then you repeatedly bash the power button, until windows wakes up.
Once complete, you use the other gadgetfreakz download, to add on some finer settings and apps, such as Skype and a working marketplace.

Once running the device is quick to respond, and has a graphical quality way beyond its price. the screen itself is a a 5 point capacitive, meaning a smooth response , anywhere in the surface.
Now the bad points. I accept some may be the OS rather than the device, which is one reason why this OS cannot be currently considered for an enterprise rollout.
Exchange integration these days should be a given for any mobile device. Although, email seems to be fine, the calendar sync is rubbish, no more no less.
Also, when it hasn’t been on for a while it takes about 15 mins to sort itself out, with syncing etc.
This week the chrome for android browser beta was launched. It doesn’t work on this device.

Saying all that, the normal browser works fine, and so does twitter, etc.

In short, of you need something for quick browsing and maybe some pocket cloud style remote desktop, then this is your man for the price. Be aware, that the novo basic, has a MIPS based processor, which means a lot of the market place stuff wont work for the moment. Using the Novo advanced I am yet to find a full release app that doesn’t work.

Overall, it’s solid, but needs polishing to be a contender. But it has a niche place.
3.5 mrbens.

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Review: Turtle Beach Earforce Foxtrot Gaming headphones


I have used the standard headphones for the XBOX 360 since launch, with no issues. Recently i sat on them, which did cause a bit of a permanent issue. I then used the ones that came with my slim HALO 360. These were fine to begin with, but everyone kept telling me i was breaking up, so the time was upon me to get some real gaming phones.

Picked up the TBEF’s in Game ¬†– Westfield – Stratford for 59.99. They were a fiver more than the usual models as they were the COD MW3 special editions. I know, i just couldn’t help myself.

Phones Unboxed. Nice military grey !

As you can see they come in a fetching military grey, with some MW3 insignia. Just right for all that MW3 TDM !

They also comes with a bundle of connectors including USB (longest lead ever, and no batteries kids) for power and some RCA jacks for sound.

You will notice in the photo they also have a little in line controller. This covers independent chat and game volume, a stereo expander, the usual mic on and off, and an adjustable bass control.

This makes for a lot of cable around the console, that may trouble the more OCD of you (laughs at the irony, did i just say that ?), but there has to be enough for you to move around – should you choose. Not advised for Kinect use. ūüôā

The sound quality is really good, and brings new reality to playing MW3. You can hear properly, things happening in all directions. For a gazillion pounds they do a Dolby 7.1 version that must be pretty special!

The first thing you do need to do though is get used to balancing game and chat levels, else things just get loud and annoying. People screetching on game chat (you know who you are), can bring an unpleasant shock, but having the game in ear adds more than i could of imagined (Headphones are for DJing or Ipods only in my house up until yesterday).

These fellows also work on PS3 and PC as well, and i really need to bring them to work for my next VOIP conference call, if only for the crack.

Well worth the money. 4 MrBens.

Official Site

Review: Motion CL900 Windows 7 Tablet


As tablets¬†proliferate¬†throughout both the¬†consumer¬†and corporate workspace, one thing they have been¬†targeted¬†for is field working. This is not new, take a look at any parcels you have delivered, or the AA van when he comes to fix your car. And the one thing you won’t find is an Ipad.

However the pure domination of Apples cash cow means that the rest of the world are finally getting the tablet as a tool idea , and are starting to deploy in great numbers.

Normally these devices are either attached to the user (PDA) or in a comfy environment (Car / Van). Now people have noticed the advantages, they are making their way out into more rougher areas, and undertaking more demanding roles.

The company¬†I¬†work for has a demand to use these types of devices in the field in quite demanding locations. Due to the software needed, it appears Windows is the preferred option, which lessens the market of available products. The Acer i used for Windows 8, although capable would not last 10 mins in a rough place, which led me down the toughened route. This is full of “Hummer” style devices which in truth are not that portable. This led me to discover Motion. They have produced tablets for hospitals and the like for a while and are now¬†branching¬†out using this¬†experience¬†to cover more demanding¬†environments.

This review covers the CL900, and i hope to review the F5v another time.

Basically the CL900 is an Atom based touch screen tablet in a semi tough case. This means you get a rubber edging with covers for all sockets (USB, power, mem stick, sim card) It runs Windows 7 Pro (great start over home), and comes as standard with 1Gb RAM. First tip, get the 2GB option if you really want to use this. The best bit for me is the “Gorilla Glass” screen. This is a super tough glass screen, which in normal use is also¬†scratch¬†resistant. But being tougher does not¬†compromise¬†functionality, as the screen, both with a stylus or finger works exactly as expected with no delay.

The screen quality is good, but has a smaller than usual viewing angle (there is an upgraded screen available to deal with this. But in normal use this has no effect.

Performance is 2.0 on the windows scale (out of the box – no tweaking). Our box came with 32GB SSD on board, so plenty of storage.

Applications run as expected on a machine of this size. Office 2007 ran as good as my PC. The only snag was cold booting took 1min to login screen. This is not good for a machine with an SSD. My experiences with windows 8 suggest this will dramatically reduce when the full release becomes available.

One great feature is the one button CTRL-ALT-DEL. Acer take note, no super dexterity required !

In short, a perfect tool for users to take outside, and windows 7 means no retraining. For full portability get the 3G option (standard comes with Wi-fi and BT).

Good product, needs small tweaks. 3.5 mrbens (out of 5).

CL 900 running Word 2007.
Port cover and ports
Pop out holder for stylus

Google Chromebook – and then ?


In a world commonly called the “Post -pc era” by techno analysts, we are always net connected using some sort of mobile device, be it a tablet or phone. At work we all still use Macs or PC’s, which are usually also net connected. But the nay sayers tell us that soon those deskbound (inc. laptops) devices will be banished to hell along with floppy disks and green screens, in favour of our fondle slabs.

One of the main players in the mobile space are Google, with their own OS (Android), and devices (Nexus, etc) and supply chain (HTC, Samsung). They also have a fantastic range of cloud based applications starting with gmail and running up to the pro versions of google apps, and great viewers such as Picasa.

With all this in mind these guys have most to win from the “post – pc era”, by delivering more great devices and apps to run on them.

So i raised more than an eyebrow when Google announced in May 2011, a new device to hit the market in June, the Chromebook. This was a laptop style device running Chrome OS (also new). This interested me, as Google’s dev teams was one part of the business i had always admired, and a competing OS looked really interesting, until i realised i already had it, and it was called Chrome (the browser).

So now you can have a laptop that runs a browser, and with the advent of HTML 5 runs some apps offline if you don’t mind using¬†Google¬†sanctioned apps (ever tried paginating in¬†Google¬†docs ?). ¬† It’s basically a ¬£400 laptop that doesn’t do any of the stuff you use your usual laptop for without a¬†persistent¬†IP connection, or some considerable¬†concessions.

The latest versions of chrome do all this (kindle cloud on chrome is a great app). So to get the best of Google’s post PC era, buy a cheap PC (or not so cheap Mac) and run Chrome (which i really do¬†recommend)

Yesterday Google¬†dropped the price of this device (but not in the UK yet !), but to everyone else its already free !! If this is the culmination of Google’s web dominance, then i feel they have lost the plot. I give them about another 6 months before they bin the whole thing, in favour of , emmmmmmmmm PC’s ?

The Future Apparently

Windows 8 – First impressions


Microsoft have now released a developer preview copy of their next Windows Desktop OS. This is currently named Windows 8 (quell surprise !). The last move to 7 was very favourable as the previous incarnation (Vista) was universally heralded as a failure (a bit unfair in my estimation), so iwas interested to see the new changes.

Since the launch of 7, there has been some major shifts in the IT world, namely the move of all the major players to tablet and touch type devices. This has been led by Apple, but has been hung onto by the likes of Android  and HP (RIP Web OS).

Some players had tried to port 7 to a tablet but as MS themselves said at the time, 7 was not designed for a tablet and therefore would not give the full experience, such as that on an IOS product.

We are told that Windows 8 has been designed from the ground up with touch in mind and the main difference from a user¬†perspective¬†makes this clear with the main interface not being the usual desktop, but the ¬†new look “Metro” UI. This is a collection of panes that represent different applications. As well as being easy to navigate i imagine it makes life very easy for non IT types to find and run their applications. All the favourites are there out of the box, eg settings, IE and Windows explorer, plus some new ones such as a twitter client and a facebook client (Socialite ? really ?). There have been complaints that really only works in a touch environment. I would say that once you are used to it, it’s just as easy on a normal keyboard/mouse interface, but does ¬†feel enhanced using touch. There is also a tile for the normal desktop. This is where the second big change comes in. The start button was introduced with Windows 95, and still exists in 8, but DONT CLICK IT, it takes you back to the Metro UI. This does takes some getting used to. Basically the desktop is only there when you really need it , as you should always use the Metro UI. Any programs you install will be on the Metro UI, and will open the desktop if its needed. I have found a reg fix to change the Start Button functionality back to “normal”, but it will be interesting to see if MS revert it based on customer feedback. I can see a corporate not really wanting the Metro on a normal PC, who will demand the normal Desktop interface.

Most of the other changes are under the bonnet, the key one being speed. Its supposed to be more efficient that Windows 7, and I have to say , on first impressions I’ll buy that. Very snappy.

With two views, Metro and Desktop, comes one of my bugbears. When you run a metro app, you cannot close it, so it all get a bit apple as you switch apps with stuff being in suspended mode in the background. Taking up memory, or more to the point on a tablet, taking up battery. The only way to close fully, is to go back into desktop and open task manager, and kill the process directly. Not the most eloquent of solutions and one easily fixed.

So I’m current running Win 8 on a Acer W501 Tab with 3G and keyboard, and it goes out as a working unit today, so I’ll keep this page updated with any major issues / great success’¬†I find.

Most of the desktop tools seems the same as they ever were, but for release I would expect updates to Media Centre and the promised out of the box install of Security Essentials. Maybe even on home versions, they should add Security and Live Essentials. They are essential for a reason.

I’m sure more to follow.

Blackberry Playbook – Shrewd or Disaster ?


About 3 weeks ago i had a play with a pre production playbook, and i have to admit i was impressed with what i found. A well built unit at exactly the right size, which went like stink. Ideal.

Now lets go back further, to 1998 to be precise. I was at the Network-Interop show at Olympia. A guy from BT showed my a small blue device with a wheel on the side called a blackberry. This smaller than a mobile phone device apparently allowed me to send and receive email on the move. OMG (if it had been around then !). I rushed back to work and starting spreading the gospel. These things are going to be the future of remote email, blah, blah, blah. Turns out to some extent i was right.

So back today, and RIM are still the no 1 in secure email on the move. So the one thing i didn’t check on the Playbook was the mail client. I just assumed it would be there and comparable to what i have experienced on the various bolds, curves and storms i have used over the years.

Turns out i was wrong. This fondle slab doesn’t come out of the box with the only thing that gives RIM competitive avantage, secure email and calendar. WHAT !

“But you can !” i hear the RIM employee shouting, as i leave the shop “you just need to bluetooth it to your blackberry”.

So i now need two devices to get something i should get easily with the first device. In our Apple/Android/sexy phone of the week centric world, not everyone has a Blackberry for work now, so to me this is very shortsighted. In a world of decreasing market presence, surely native PIM inclusion would be a given. Will there be a consumer version with some sort of client built in. This is probably not a big deal as most people will have web mail of some sort, and there will be an app, or the browser will deal with it in a sensible way, like gmail.com on an IOS device. I prefer it to using the mail app.

So thats the disaster (for now – apparently the first Feature Pack will sort this).

How have RIM explained this away? As discussed the RIM platform is by far the most secure mobile corporate ecosystem out there. Period. So based on this, they are suggesting that the device should have no corp data on it. Hence once you connect your Blackberry to the playbook, you are still only getting a window onto the world, rather than the keys to the door.

Personaly i am struggling with this. My Blackberry has all this data on with no issues. I am assuming BES conectivity for these devices will ensure the same level of remediation available for lost devices. This brings me onto my next potential issue. Will having a Playbook mean a second BES licence? No, as the device is connected through the BB handset. I assume that post the first service pack the device will be able to be utilised standalone. This would then incur another licence, and further cost. This is obviously unacceptable for a user already on a BB, and therefore will need to be dealt with sensibly. Maybe licence per user, than per device. This should be easy to mange taking on board the fact that the machines are always connected home.

If RIM don’t sort these issues out, it will be a shame, because as I said at the top, the device is lovely to use.

Just to muddy the waters, as i was writing this I’ve just picked up the news regarding the new Samsung Galaxy’s (the 10.1 and 8.9). Choosing a tablet has never been harder !

Ipad 2 – Did Steve Listen ?


Some time ago i published a wish list for the new ipad. The specs are now out there, post the lauch by a very ill looking Steve jobs last week, so lets take a look at what i wanted:

Less weight (far too heavy to hold for a significant amount of time) + some nicely placed ridges / finger pads, on the back for extra comfort when holding as a book, etc. Thanks 

Facetime and front facing camera. Portable VC on a decent screen !. Thanks for that.

USB, sdcard, anything slot. I know its a long shot but it¬†is handy ! Knew i wouldn’t get it but worth a shout

External display out, for any app. See post one ! With the HDMI output i’m hoping for all apps.

Ideally, i would like MS office as well, but now i’m pushing the boat out. Talking to an analyst who is in the know, last week, i’m slightly optimistic

And cheaper. Either compete with netbooks or don’t. Currently i can buy 2+ netbooks per pad, and currently they are more useful. No change here

Other key features are the quicker processor (good) ¬†and the introduction of Imovies and garageband (woo …..hmmm).¬†

Looks like i only missed out on 2 points, not bad at all. Actually it will be one point because i will look to pick one up in New York come end of April, and save a few bob by using dollar pricing.

I also had a hands on of a Blackberry Playbook last week, and i love the form factor. I am trying to get one on test for review, but theres not many pre-prduction models around just yet. Just the fact it hangs off a BES means that the unit should be more secure than a ipad.

Also i’m looking into some stuff Motorola are doing in the Android space to make it more enterprise secure. Will get back to you once i taken a decent look.

 

 

Sheep to hack your pc?


This may be a little old now, but for normal users its worth knowing that if you use public wifi (eg that other people you don’t know use), then you could be in all sorts of bother if you also use facebook or twitter or for that matter any site that requires a login and delivers permanent cookies to the PC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firesheep

I picked this up from Steve Gibson’s excellent podcast on security for Twit.tv

http://wiki.twit.tv/wiki/Security_Now

Top 10 technology picks for 2010


I been thinking about this for some time and have struggled getting it down to 10. But 10 it is, but they are in no order.  Some have been around prior to 2010, but have come into their own this year.

1. Ipad

No list for this year can be without the Ipad, whether i like it or not. Its an interesting struggle between a top technology idea and a reason for having one. Personally, i feel there are single use devices that are far better than what Apple are trying to acheive (see Kindle, below). But as a jack of all trades, it copes but has some wierd foibles that need sorting (eg one place for files, and not per app). The second one , as we all know will be some sort of fantastic, but lets wait for Feb to see.

2. Android.

This year the mighty google really flexed their muscle with the first decent releases of their phone OS, Android. 2,2¬†introduced a big increase in performance, and¬†2,3 Gingerbread increased this again. BUT, the app store needs to take a tip from¬†Apple, and stop being the wildwest, and get more sensible. Also,¬†to be sucessful does not¬†mean¬†allowing release of 100 different handsets every month. This really has the potential to be the number 1 in phone systems but if some people are 4 versions behind others, and have no idea when they will get updates, i’m sure market share will start to fall. So B+ for effort, E for application of business strategy.

3. Windows Phone

In order to complete the new world order of phone system trinity, i have to mention Microsoft’s re-entry into the phone market. This is the second one this year but less said about the Kin project the better (i’m surprised Balmer didn’t call it the f’kin project !).

Please don’t call it Windows 7 on the phone as every bloke in a phone shops wants to. ITS WINDOWS PHONE (SYSTEM 7). Microsoft marketing at its best – again.

What we get here is fantastic , as long as you already use (or don’t mind moving towards) the windows live suite of products and have an xbox.

Again the potential here is huge, but i’m not hearing big take up values. Every review is great, but if the marketplace is to explode with apps, the devs need to know there are going to be customers. Maybe when all those 3gs and nexus 1 contracts are up we may see some uptake. But if MS don;t get their way, i;m sure they will throw money at it. To be fair the system looks too good to fail, but you know what they said about the Titantic.

4. Hand held camcorders.

HHC’s have been about for eons, but this year they have caught up with the rest if the digital photography world and have become, pocket sized, HD, SDHC compatible, and most importantly, cheap. Great fun, and makes youtube a less out of focus place !

5. Kinect

A little biased as i got one on launch day, but this could be the tool to put MS back at the top of console wars. Once setup (a bit laborious) its worth its wait. Want to watch sky without a remote? Check. Want to have a VC on a decent sized screen? Check. OH yeah it plays games as well. We only have kinect adventures at the moment, and an unplayed active2. Reviews to come.

6. COD Black Ops

Nuff said. The biggest entertainment earner of 2009, does it again in 2010. Fair play to Treyarch, who were always the inferior partner to Infinity Ward in pulling this off. Now sort out some minor issues with lag. I’m getting fed up with getting 4 hit markers and then getting shot by 1 bullet 2 seconds afterwards. Where does this leave us with COD, bearing in mind the IW issues / lawsuits, etc, i don’t know, but i could play the final 3 (maybe 4) for ever.

7. 3D TV

Welcome to the 1950’s and the world of 3D. Welcome aboard Avatar, and ummmmmmmmmmm Avatar ! This is fedgling tech for sure, but needs to lose the glasses to become really mainstream. I nearly looked at one for christmas, but checked the Sky 3D listings and i had already seen……………………………..Avatar. Next year this will be in again i’m sure but without glasses, and with more content.

8. The Cloud

From Amazon wanting all your companies data held on the internet to Microsoft advertising “to the cloud” as a way of families watching videos from remote locations, everyone is caching in on the cloud. Web based storage has been around for ever, and so has remote hosting of servers, so can we drop the pretence about this being the next big thing and recognise it for what it is. However in the days of cheap online storage, whoever makes the killer app is onto some big profit. MS have had a go with office 365, but it suffers the same issue as google. NO PAGINATION. This is quite a bugbear for me so i’ll l eave it there.

9. Wikileaks

Was 2010 a good year or a bad year for Julian Assange? When does too much information become a bad thing, or is it a fuss about nothing. If nothing else this should keep IT security experts in jobs for a few years.

10. Kindle 3

Donly have one so i cannot review completely, but this looks a game changer. Free 3G, quick book downloads, small files, and of course the screen. No apple glossy reflective nonsense. Nearer holiday time i might get one, or do i go for the kindle client on the Itouch ??

So roll on 2011, what ya got ? More of the same i think, but just made easier. A bit like this year ūüôā