Thursday, February 25, 2010

Acer Takes an Olympic Approach

This morning, CNET released an article that discussed the OS and computer choice of the Olympics.
Over 6,200 computers were purchased for the Olympics use, and these computers...

Acer computers.  The Olympic officials declined upgrading to Windows 7, saying it was just too new.  These computers are running on Windows XP, which, at least in my opinion, is outdated but still a quality OS.  However, hopefully in two years the Olympics move on up to Windows 7-it's superior.  Really, it is.  We'll discuss that a different day.

The first thing I did when I saw Acer as the company, I cringed... but then paused.  I myself own an Acer netbook.  This underrated company may finally be on their way to success.  The Taiwan-based company has been excelling over the last few years, and is becoming more popular, especially as a "Wal-Mart brand" computer.  (That's the whole reason I have an Acer-the cheapness, and the accessibility through Wal-Mart... no matter how much I want to avoid them.)  Why does Acer still make people back off?  Well, it's main problem is their computers have a reputation for being a slow, and sometimes they don't use top-notch parts.  This can be true, but like with anything you get what you pay for.  Acers are budget-style computers, and for the money they are actually excellent little beasts.

So, why buy Acer?  I'm not saying dump your computer and run straight out for an Acer; it's very true that they are NOT the best, and this company is competing in an industry with names such as Dell, HP... yeah, you get it.  But what if you need a small, cheap addition to your tech collection?  Go with the Acer Aspire One.  This is what I have (in blue), and while it isn't great for running several high-memory things, it cruises for internet browsing (especially with Google Chrome), instant messaging (Windows Live works GREAT), and word processing.  It's a get-down-to-basics computer in a sense, but isn't that the original purpose of a netbook?

Aspire One 10.1 inch Netbook Specs
(At least, the one I have)
Harddrive: 160GB
Processor: Intel Atom N270
Speed: 1.6 GHz
OS: Windows XP Home Edition
Battery: 3-Cell Lithium Ion (Close to 3+ hours battery life)

Downfalls: most of the time, does not come with an external DVD/CD drive.  Mine didn't.  Also, there is no real recovery option other than sending it back to Acer to have them reformat it for you, because it doesn't come with recovery disks (however, if you buy an external drive yourself, it gives you the option to create a backup disk....)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tech Wars: The Phone Wars-Episode 3: Revenge of the Phone Plans

The final showdown between the iPhone and the Motorola Droid comes down to the cost of the phone plans.  I am going to review two different combinations of phone plans on each provider, because obviously not everyone will require the same type of plan.  The first option reviewed will be the "unlimited everything" deal, and the second will be two phones on a set minute family plan (AKA the "I'm on a budget" aspect).

Verizon Wireless Unlimited Plan
Unlimited Minutes: $89.99
Unlimited Texting: Included with minutes
Unlimited Data (Minus Corporate Email): $29.99

Cost of Motorola Droid: With 2-year contract and online discount, $199.99
(Also, random fact, Verizon has a buy one get one free deal if you're going with a family plan)
Activation Fee: Verizon does not have one.

AT&T Wireless Unlimited Plan
nlimited Minutes: $69.99
Unlimited Texting: $20.00
Unlimited Data: (No specification about Corporate...) $30.00
TOTAL MONTHLY: $119.99 (GASP. It's a penny more expensive!)

Cost of iPhone: With Contract, $199.00 (3GS 16GB)
Activation Fee: $36.00 (One-time... ouch.  Just... sad...)

Hmm.  From the consumer point of view, other than the phone cost and activation fee, Verizon and AT&T look pretty much identical.  Now, if you are looking at corporate accounts, Verizon will in fact cost more.  Their corporate data plan is $44.99/month.  As far as I can tell, AT&T's stays the same.

Now, onto the family plans.  We will be comparing a 1400 minute national plan for two phones, with unlimited texting on both phones.  Also, both phones will be identical, both require data plans, and (luckily for Verizon) I will include any discounts for buying the same phone.

Verizon Wireless 1400 Minute Family Plan
1400 Minutes: $119.99 (This also includes 10 unlimited friends/family)
Unlimited Texting: Included in plan
Unlimited Data: $29.99/phone

Cost of 2 Droids: $199.99 (With online discount, 2-year contract, and buy one get one free)
Activation Fee: There is none!

AT&T 1400 Minute Family Plan
1400 Minutes: $89.99 (Includes rollover minutes)
Unlimited Texting: $30.00 for family
Unlimited Data: $30.00/phone

Cost of 2 iPhones (3GS 16GB): $399.98
Activation Fee: $36.00 for primary phone, $26.00 for secondary phone

As you can see, there is once again not a whole lot of difference between the plans.  The main difference is whether or not you want a 10-person calling circle, or if rollover minutes are for you.  Also, if you are trying to go on a budget, AT&T's phone costs and activation fees can hurt. A LOT.  But then it all comes down to phone preference, and perhaps if the iPhone means that much to you.  Also, corporate vs. regular varies for Verizon, which would once again make it more expensive.

My personal final verdict?  I've convinced my dad that switching to Verizon is the best option with the 1400 minute plan.  You may have already figured out I am in favor of the Droid, but also Verizon coverage is much better in this area.  Coverage areas can vary greatly, so this is something I would also research when choosing a plan.  Hopefully some day in the near future I will be able to give you an overview of what the Droid is really about!

Not sure what my topic is going to be for next time, but I am sure it will be in a completely different direction than phones.  Stop by soon and check it out!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tech Wars-The Phone Wars: Episode 2-Attack of the Personality Factor

Now you have seen the technical specs of both the iPhone and the Motorola Droid, but I'm sure these don't totally hit home which phone suits you.  Maybe it even made you wonder if EITHER is good for you!  This post is going to cover some of the areas of life I feel are important when chosing a phone, and which phone I think would suit you best if you fit into these categories.

The media geek: Go for the iPhone.  There are more Apps dedicated to you, on-board video editing, Apple's reputation as the must-have music device and the iTunes compatibility, and its simple user interface make this the media giant for Smartphones.

The traveler: Droid.  While both have navigation, the battery life of the Droid during usage time, along with the keyboard for easy communication purposes (E-mail, blogging, texting, instant messaging...) make it an adaptable tool.

The uncoordinated technology-wise: Yes. This is how I am going to state technologically pathetic people in a politically correct way.  If you are "uncoordinated" when using technology (As in, you are that person who tends to crash a computer on a daily basis), please. please. PLEASE go for the iPhone.  It was built for its user-friendliness.  Take advantage of this.

The techie (non-professional): If you're that person that drools over gadgets, you want the Droid.  There's more to play with, it's a more advanced phone, and with the 5.0mp camera and the multitasking abilities... you would enjoy pushing this to the max.

The techie (professional): This definitely comes down to personal preference. Mac vs. PC, what exactly you want the phone for, blah blah blah.  Me, I choose the Droid.  But if you're a professional techie, you should be able to use Episode 1 as your deciding factor, as well as what's ahead in part 3.

I most certainly have not hit every aspect of what these phones are capable of, and who they are actually for.  But I think the main comparison comes down to this: Media vs. Business/Work.  If you're a media person, or solely want a phone for entertainment, you want the iPhone.  If you're using it for business purposes, work-related, or need to do many things very quickly, then I'd pick the Droid.

There is one more deciding factor in this war... and one that isn't talked about a whole lot.  Phone plans.  Check back for episode 3!

Please enjoy this wallpaper I threw together out of boredom!

Tech Wars - The Phone Wars: Episode 1-The Tech Specs

With all the hype over Apple products lately, one would think that they have taken control over the market, at least in the handheld electronics spectrum-they've got the iPod, for starters, which revolutionized portable music.  Now there is the iPhone, which seems to be in every other person's hand.  However, a new competitor has breached the phone market and while the iPhone is getting all the hype for its 3G smartphone-ness, the Motorola Droid has some statistics that cannot be ignored.  So, which is better?  Well it all boils down to 3 things: What do you want to use the phone for, what user functionalities best suit you, and also how much you are willing to pay for the actual cell phone service.  Let's start by examining the phones themselves, and comparing their technical specs.

iPhone-The basic layout, pros and cons.
For this review's purposes, I will be reviewing the iPhone 3GS, because it is the newer, superior version of the iPhone.  From and , I have found some important specs for the comparison.  The Apple iPhone weighs in at a mere 4.8 ounces, and is 4.5" tall by 2.4" wide, with a depth of .48".  This makes it very slim and easy to carry in a pocket.  You have two choices of storage capacity: 16 or 32GB, and also can choose black or white for your phone color.  (Although, here is where you could invite Michael Jackson to start singing that old hit, because quite honestly in the end... does color matter? I suppose to an extent...) Okay. That's the boring stuff.  Now let's talk about what REALLY matters.

Screen Resolution: 480x320 pixel resolution.  Not bad for a little beast.
Camera Resolution: 3.0 Megapixel (Better than some... yes) However, the iPhone has onboard video editing.  Something nifty for those vloggers out there.  And like always the Apple product does beat out the others when it comes to multimedia tools.
Wifi?: Yes. Well of course.
Battery Life (by continuous 3G talk time): 5 hours. This is definitely decent.
GPS: Yes-turn by turn and digital compass. Useful, needless to say.
Number of Apps: iTunes App Store with 93,200 Apps.  The LARGEST market of Apps. This is a plus for the iPhone.
Multitasking: NO. That, my friends, is disappointing. Even for Apple. (Not. That. I'm partial. To PCs.)

So overall, the iPhone seems to be a decent phone.  Some advantages it has over the Droid, which we will comment on next, are definitely the Apps.  This selection is over 9 times what the Android Market has.  Also, compatible video and audio formats---the iPhone has several more formats that are compatible... however it is still incapable of using WMAs.  Then again, they have their own Apple formats, such as MOV video files, that are not compatible with the Droid.  Not shocking though, as this is definitely Mac vs. PC to an extent.  Macs don't like to share, and Microsoft is nice and picky.

Motorola Droid: The Powerhouse of pros and cons

The Motorola Droid is a strong, versatile phone.  Information comes from and .  The droid weighs in a 6 ounces, which is significantly heavier than the iPhone, when considering that their size is nearly identical. 2.4" wide x 4.6" high and .5" deep.  It only comes in one color, which may be complainable for many (meaning those who go "Ooh shiny!" over "Wow that thing is crap...") But there is a significant difference between these two phones: while the iPhone is completely touch screen, the Droid is a slider-it has both touch screen capabilities AND a QWERTY keyboard.  This all comes down to preference, but honestly, what is really easier in the long run.  Typing on a keyboard as you're walking down the street, using your two thumbs and not worrying about navigating away from the keyboard by mistake?  Or fumbling with a touch screen, looking down because you keep missing the letters since there's no terrain difference like with keys, and the occasional "@#$#! I lost it cuz i pressed blah blah blah!" (This exclamation is frequent in college settings. Just saying.) So. Onto the tech comparison.

Screen Resolution: 480x854 pixels. Hate to say it ( I don't) but the Droid kicks the iPhone in this category.  However, on a teeny tiny screen, there comes a point where this stat only matters so much.
Camera Resolution: 5.0 megapixels. This is an epic number when it comes to phones.  Some would consider using this as their actual digital camera (says the one who has a 2.0 digital camera that is ducttaped together)
Wifi?: Yes, but does that shock you?
Battery Life (Talk Time): 6.4 hours.  This is VERY useful to those on-the-go individuals.  However I would like to point out (just to be fair) that its standby time is actually 30 hours less than that of the iPhone, weighing in at 270 hours instead of the iPhone's 300.  So if you aren't one to do the charge at night method, the iPhone may be important.
GPS: Yes, turn by turn and digital compass, just like the iPhone.  However we'll get to an important difference very soon.
Number of Apps: 10,000 through the Android market.  A slim selection in comparison to the App Store, which can be disappointing for those who really like loading up there phones and making them multimedia/entertainment/business/websurfing/gaming/etc. tools.
Multitasking: Ahem. YES. And THIS is where it gets interesting.  The iPhone is actually the only smart phone out of the main competitors (such as Palm Pre and MyTouch) that cannot multitask!  This can be dangerous for those of us who cannot stay focused on one thing at a time.  Or, if you're like me, and get lost very easily while driving and an important phone call comes in and you were currently streaming music from your phone through your radio from Pandora.  Okay, I haven't encountered that situation but be realistic-it could happen.  And multitasking could be very very important.

In the end there are some obvious variations between the phones, and many people would have no idea where to go from here with these specs.  That is why Tech Wars Episode 2 will focus on the user preference: I will try to cover the functionalities and why certain people would like one phone over the other better.  Thanks for reading, hope to see you back for part 2!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Welcome to Techie FreakOut!

Hello world!  I would like to introduce you to my new blog, which will soon be used as a project for my college course.  This is Techie Tips FreakOut, the blog that will share general knowledge pertaining to computers, whether building, searching for new parts, general usage, nifty tricks, virus removal, innovative programs... each update will be some sort of new tech information.  I will also do some reviews on new tech products, websites, and anything else the average techie might be interested in.

A little about myself.  I am a freshman in college at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and a Management Information Systems major.  I work as a computer technician for the Management Information Office (a segment of Residence Life) and specialize in virus removal and internet connections.  On my own outside of work, I build computers, help friends and family with software and hardware issues, and maintain some of their computers for them.  I also work stage tech in two theatres, UW-O's and the Engler Center in Chilton, WI.  While I'm not exactly a "techie techie" in these positions, I help build sets, work running crew and fly rail, and generally paint.  A lot.  Ask my clothes.  On my free time, I research new technology stuff, play with GIMP and do photo editing, and also occasionally make some advertising materials for friends, family, and sometimes my theatre people.  Hopefully this summer I will be starting a vinyl lettering business, so for now I'm working on creating advertising and information for that.

Expect my first real post within the next few days... the topic is still undetermined.  Think of this as a teaser, so please check back soon!  And thank you for visiting Techie Tips FreakOut!