One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.
This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.
This week a couple of gadgets arrived at MNM, but I haven't started testing either of them in earnest. AT&T sent over its new MiFi 2372 mobile hotspot. This is made by Novatel and works on the AT&T 3G network, which they cheekily claim is the "nation's fastest mobile broadband network". I know for a fact that claim is bogus, having recently tested Verizon's zippy LTE network, but I will give the MiFi a good evaluation.
Sprint sent over the HTC EVO Shift 4G smartphone, which is basically a budget version of the EVO 4G I currently use. The Shift is smaller than my EVO, and sports a sliding QWERTY keyboard. It has a goofy trackpad on the keyboard which takes up a lot of precious space, while offering little benefit. I've only just gotten it unboxed so further impressions will come later. Matt Miller has published a good review of the EVO Shift 4G that you should check out if you're curious about this smartphone.
All of the focus on tablets at the CES last week prompted me to pick up a Windows 7 tablet I've had for a few months. The TEGA v2 is as thin and light as the iPad, and has an outstanding capacitive touchscreen. The touch operation is unique for a Windows system, and while it makes Windows 7 as touch-friendly as anything else I've tried it points out the difficulties OEMs face with making a good Windows tablet. The TEGA v2 impresses those who see it due to it's svelte 10-inch form, which is as good as any Windows tablet I saw in the extensive online CES coverage. I intend to use the v2 heavily for a while, to see if there's a way to get the touch user experience to work better.
A new version of remote control app LogMeIn Ignition (LMI) was released for Android this week, that is optimized for tablets with larger screens. I spent a fair bit of time giving it a spin on the 7-inch Galaxy Tab and came away impressed with how useful LMI is. I have used LMI to work with both Mac and Windows systems, and it is so cool how it makes both environments operable by touch.
While LMI is a good tool for tech support folks, I found a good use for it in my blogging work. I am constantly using the Galaxy Tab for web research as it's handy for that, and sometimes I write draft posts on the Tab using the stellar SwiftKey app. Unfortunately Android browsers fall short in interacting with the ZDNet blogging editor so finalizing posts are not possible. But with LMI on the Tab I found I could easily work with the editor by logging into my Mac or Windows system and running the full browser remotely. Using this method I can now finalize and publish posts when I only have the Tab with me. It's not something I want to do on a daily basis, but it is significant that it turned an impossible task using the Tab into one that is not only possible in a pinch but fairly straightforward.
One of my favorite apps on the HTC EVO 4G phone I use is the Sprint TV app. Sprint includes it with the EVO at no charge, and it's a great way to watch shows on the phone when I have some free time. I admit I like the Castle show on ABC so much that I enjoy watching reruns using Sprint TV. I have always lamented the lack of Sprint TV on the Galaxy Tab, as the large screen would be perfect for watching shows. This week I was looking around the web and discovered that some folks have installed Sprint TV on the Tab and reported that it worked perfectly. I searched around and found the APK, installed it on the Tab and I now have my Sprint TV on the bigger screen. It is awesome, and those of you with a Tab on the Sprint network you may want to search around the web for it as I did.
Since I am now a freelance writer again I needed business cards, so I decided to print my own. I picked up Avery business card forms (8869) for my inkjet printer, which came with a link to download Avery's software for print projects including business cards. The free software is available for both Macs and Windows systems, and is well designed. It took me 30 minutes to make a professional-looking business card, and in another 30 minutes I had printed 100 of them to hand out when needed. This method was very easy and cost-effective, and I recommend it for those in need of business cards.
E-books of the Week
This week as always I read e-books using the Kindle app, switching between the Galaxy Tab and EVO as convenient. Amazon has nailed giving a pleasant user experience for those of us using multiple devices for reading, as the WhisperSync technology in the Kindle system is flawless. No matter which device was handy for reading, the Kindle app always knew my reading place in the current book. It just works.
The first e-book I read this week was unsettling. Trapped by Jack Kilborn is a frightening tale of a group of folks trapped on an island with some very bad people. The story quickly turns into one of cannibalism and sadistic torture that is hard to stomach. Once you start reading Trapped it's like rubbernecking a bad auto accident; you know you shouldn't look but you can't stop. I don't recommend this novel for that reason, it's easier to avoid it than to stop reading in the middle.
I also started reading a novel that is already entertaining -- Dead or Alive by Tom Clancey. This is typical Clancey and it's great to meet old friend Jack Ryan and other familiar Clancey characters once again. The novel is lengthy and reads like other Clancey books -- jumping from location to location, trying to keep all of the characters straight. It's a great read so far and I'm engrossed in the story.
That's my week in Mobile News Manor, I hope you found something good to take away with you. Until next week, take care and be nice to others.