Thursday, July 24, 2014

BlueGreen Ethan Williams Build 2014

I've discussed my build in previous posts, and this video, found on my YouTube channel, is a complete tour of everything inside it and my general feelings with all of it. Please subscribe to my channel and share this video with friends.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Impressions in 71 Minutes of CS:GO

I recently downloaded Counter Strike: Global Offensive about a week ago and have played it as much as possible with AP tests and qualifying for state track, aka 71 minutes as of today. I realize this is nothing compared to what most people spend on this game in the first week, and I have by no means mastered it yet, I have figured out quite a bit of it and I feel I can accurately say why I like it quite a bit more than other FPS games.

The first reason is because it is much more realistic strategy-wise. When I obsessively played Call of Duty (38 hours in my 4 months of owning it, just on multi-player), I always felt like there were serious flaws in designing strategy. It was fun because it was very much a run-n-gun game that was fast paced and gave me a rush when fighting at close-quarters. With CS:GO, I feel like it is much more realistic in terms of strategy. Its not quite like in Arma where you really need to preserve your life, but you are always using more strategy and caution, partly because you die for good until the next round in most game types as IGN says, and the ballistics is different. I have found that it is much more realistic in that it takes into account that a bullet is about as powerful no matter where it comes out of, so at close range, you're almost on the same level with any gun save a high-powered rifle. I always felt that I was almost surely dead if I was equipped only with a pistol in CoD. I could maybe bring a couple guys down before someone's firepower was more than my aim could compensate for.

I am also a bigger fan of the weapons. In CS:Go, you can join and be on about the same level as anyone else because you don;t have to unlock guns. Everybody starts out with random one and you can buy more in the actual game, as TechReport argues. I had a big problem in CoD where you had to level up for new weapons, so the more time you spent, not only were you more experienced, you also had vastly superior guns. The two things I do wish CS:GO had better gun customization so that I could have a little more interesting guns. The other thing I would like to see come is sights. It still feels really weird for me to be hip firing with every gun. I would much better aim down some sights, which is an option only available with certain weapons, which I am definitely not a fan of, especially coming off CoD where that stuff is essential.

on the whole, I find CS:GO much more enjoyable. I think it places much less emphasis on how long you've been playing and places that stress on how good you actually are. I appreciate that there is a game out there like this, though I do have some problems. I'm looking into buying Battlefield 4 and testing that one out to add onto the comparison, so if anyone has played this game and happens to read this blog, please comment on what you think of it compared to the two games I compared here.

Recent 3D Printing

3D printing is a technology that is on the up and coming, as its uses are increased faster than I ever imagiend they could be. 3D printing has been mentioned in the news recently for the very things I predicted could happen in a previous blog. This being said, I am going to gloss over some of the news and explain its effects here. It really is the future, as Harvard will tell you. The advent of really useful 3D printing is arriving with methods to print off useful things and to vastly improve how we make things now.

The first piece of news I read recently was perhaps the most interesting piece of new I've ever read on 3D printing. It was about colonizing Mars, and how they will build there since it will be hard to transport pre-built buildings to an alien planet. The current plan that is being developed and has had some success is to take dust from the planet, put it into a printer, and literally print buildings from dust, TechCrunch says. How cool is that? There won't be glass or steel on Mars right away, because it would be hard to carry that all the way from Earth, but we'll have buildings that were 3D printed from dust! They also went a little less into detail about how 3D printing is helping out in today's Earth construction. Apparently it is used extensively, parts of buildings and models are quite often just 3D printed now, which is very cool that the precedent for building is that high already, it just raises my hopes even more that there will be more consumer-based products like this in the future that will see integration into people's everyday lives.
Successful 3D Printed Plane
The second piece of interesting 3D printing news I've recently read is about weapons, the part of this technology that I am most worried about. In the most basic sense of this news, weapons are being made more and more for use in 3D printers as the hardware becomes more advanced. This is a scary topic because right now, people who shouldn't have guns are often deterred by traditional gun sellers, in a world of 3D printing, someone could pirate the schematics that they are barred from using as TechRepublic attests to or just design their own weapon. This is a scary prospect and alludes to an even bigger potential problem. This problem was one I recently discussed with a friend on how schematics will be regulated, because it is hard to stop someone from using a schematic downloaded once,  a lot of times. In other words, people could print multiple objects for themselves and friends after paying for the item only once and getting the plans. This problem is not likely to be addressed soon, and will likely be the first major problem when 3D printing comes to the consumer.
3D Printed Assault Rifle Designed Pistol
This technology is something that I have great hopes for in the future, as this technology moves to being able to be used everywhere, making everything more efficient. There are some significant problems I could see developing, which is not uncommon to technology as many probably know. Things are often never perfect at first, but I have full confidence that with the import of this technology, it will be dealt with promptly.


I started learning to code about 9 months ago, and I am now confident in Java, HTML, and CSS. I am now delving into learning how to code Android apps after I took a stab at it a couple months ago. Obviously coding is what I want to go into, I want to be a technological entrepreneur, but I don't think that coding should be something that just people who need it for jobs should be doing, and there is a lot of support behind this, everybody in tech agrees, and many outside are starting to endorse it, such as Obama himself. Here I will explain through my experiences what coding has helped me with, and why it should be much more emphasized in schools. It is important because it teaches critical thinking skills and allows you to keep up on operating a computer.

I was talking with a friend after the Computer Science AP test in Java. He's been coding for longer than me as his parents taught him at a young age, something my parents had no interest in teaching and I regret not having a start like his. He told me that over the years he has benefited greatly from coding because it taught him advanced problem solving and being able to think through complicated tasks, as Forbes confirms. From what I've done this year, I definitely agree. In Java especially, which is based around data, I had to teach myself to look at a task, and to think of a way to solve it ni every possible case. In a simple example, say you want to mulitply a given number by 2, unless the number is over 10, at which point you want to multiply it by 3. You have to learn to think of every possible value that could be put in and prepare for it in your code. It teaches very logical, wholesome problem-solving that I believe has really helped me in other areas of school. Math and physics are where it is most apparent. I have to use the same logic in order to solve math problems, and it has helped me to apply what I have learned better. Often times you are given an equation to handle, and don't usually go beyond that. This year my teacher has put those kinds of problems into our work, and it has been extremely beneficial to have known how to code and think like that beforehand, and not to just go through problems mindlessly.

The second reason coding is important for everyone is because it helps you stay up-to-date with computers. Just the interaction with computers and learning the terms you need is very helpful to all areas of electronics, because they all interact, and this is an important skill in the world today as Lauren Orsini says. I have been able to do so much more with computers and phones now than I ever have been able to before, and I attribute most of that to what I have learned in coding. Even for the average person, it is increasingly helpful to know computers. I know some people who claim, in high school, to being tech-illiterate, and it always amazes me. If people are having trouble now, what's it going to be like when they're 50 or before where most people start to get confused with the newer technology? In this day and age, having problems with basic technology is a very bad thing. Coding lets you stay modern with your understanding of technology, and for those looking for a job, will help your application out tremendously.

These observations are coming from me after very little coding compared to how much I doubtless have left in my life, but for me and countless others, just this little amount is incredibly beneficial. Just starting to code before college puts me ahead of an amazing amount of people because it is not emphasized at all. In the whole city, AP tests usually garner about 200 each, and at computer science there were 12 people. Please, learn at least a little bit of coding, and I promise it will pay off.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Apple's Acquisition

Apple has been buying up companies like they are packs of gum lately. Most of them are probably companies that you haven't heard of, because they are more infrastructure apps that Apple brings in instead of having to create their own. These acquisitions are all in the millions (low, I know) but Apple has put forth the largest acquisition attempt in the company's history, offering to pay $3.2 billion for Beats by Dre headphones. And here's why I believe this could ruin the company: It will lose the only legitimacy it was holding on to.

This deal, which will make Dr. Dre the first billionaire in hip-hop, is a huge deal for not just the etch world, but everybody who has ever seen Beats headphones, basically everyone, because what you see is probably going to change. Mac Rumors cites analyst Gene Munster, who questions the motives of this deal. The actual hardware in Beats is nothing special, so Apple is buying just the brand, something they have never done before. They have a very exclusive brand already that they normally don't like to taint by being associated with the brands they buy. This could be one precursor for the downfall of Beats as a brand as it loses its independence to Apple. One thing that was so attractive about Beats was that they were perceived as being personally inspected and approved by the rap legend Dr. Dre. The fact that Dre is getting a majority of the money in the deal, he has a good chance not to be even involved in the company anymore. I believe that this, mixed with the fact that although Apple owns it, I don't think it will adopt the Apple effect, at least anytime soon. I think the brad will tank, but I could be wrong considering not much has changed in design and they've still sold. In fact, this could turn out the exact opposite way: two companies who are primarily known for their brand as a status symbol will combine into one non-innovating powerhouse. Wonderful.

So there's my opinions on the acquisition of Beats by Dre that is likely going to happen within the next week. It could go either way for Beats, but I really think its a bad thing for Apple. It hurts their brand and their reputation as an innovative brand. I've never been a fan of Apple or Beats, and this is just a conglomeration of these two.


Friday, May 9, 2014

New Focus on New Energy

Obama in Mountain View, CA
Solar power has been an energy creation medium that has been around for years, being used for the first time in the early 20th century. The problem was that with the huge amounts of nonrenewable resources, over the years there was just no economic reason to pursue solar power to become more efficient. That may change majorly as of today after Obama's visit to Silicon Valley. The odd part about this was that he visited a Wal-Mart, as Silicon Valley Business Journal says, as opposed to the normal venue of Google or Facebook. He was there to commend Wal-Mart on their decision to add solar panels to all of their stores in order to create a  much more self-sufficient store. This also heralded Obama's newest plan to increase renewable energy, focusing on solar energy, which could be the push towards renewable energy the world needs.

There have been several other places where presidents have tried to increase energy production through renewable sources, and many missed opportunities to get some real force behind the movement such as in the immediate wake of 9/11. Right after that tragedy, he could have mobilized the great feeling of patriotism and the fear to leech the United States off the oil dependence that caused the growth of the Middle Eastern terrorist movement in the first place, as Thomas Friedman suggested. Obama is now proposing a new plan to make the country more green as whole, focusing on developing cheaper and more efficient forms of solar power. I really think that this time its been rolled out at the right time to actual get a lot of traction and progress. The most obvious reason is that we're really having problems with energy, as the amount of resources we have available to us goes down constantly, driving prices up. Most people notice this in gasoline, which isn't horrible, but I bet its going to get a critical level of support from the public who would rather not deal with rising energy costs. Obama has introduced this in my opinion too late, which is partially the fault of other presidents, but at least we're getting around to it before its too late. Many private companies have been pursuing this technology for years, but without a huge market necessarily. I believe that having the government planted firmly behind the initiative for renewable energy could jump start progress that has been laying idle right on the brink of discovery for years.
Obama visiting solar farm
As US News reports, the White House is kickstarting its campaign for clean energy with the addition of solar panels to the top of the White House after they were taken off in the late 1900s. This initiative is something that will actually work because it will have more than enough support from the public to become a legitimate movement to replace the source of where we get our energy.

Why I Don't Regret My Computer in the Slightest

I've had my computer that I built for over a month now, enough time I think to determine my opinions and whether I think it was worth it. In short, it most certainly was. I spent a lot of money on it, about $900 total, and a little money on games as well, and I don't think I've made a better purchasing decision. This computer is able to do anything I want it to at any time, I can relax, and more importantly, I can work at a high level.
The first thing that I like to do with my computer is to relax. There's the obvious stuff like Netflix and Youtube that run on any computer, which I utilize quite often. Then there's the gaming. I went with a pretty high end graphics card that costed about $270. Extreme Tech confirms that in addition to the graphics card I bought, a self-built computer generally runs better, especially for gaming. I have played about 8 hours of  Bioshock Infinite, which is a very fun game with a sophisticated plot line that makes it much more interesting than just your normal shooter. I have also been playing the ever-addictive Civilization V and  am just starting Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I haven't had a lot of time lately with AP tests, but when I have a chance I enjoy playing all of these games, although at this point I am way out of my league in Counter-Strike. I haven't played FPS games for months and I'm new to the whole series, so it puts me at major odds to the veterans of the game, which will hopefully change with time. To relax I am also much more comfortable just when surfing the web for interesting things. The speed I have in y computer is very convenient, especially compared to my old laptop. That was pretty slow and had a small screen, making everything much harder to do. The most amazing thing to me was that I didn't even notice how restricted I felt by that laptop. I feel this weird feeling of power with my own powerful desktop.
Bioshock Infinite
The other part of my desktop is the working. I alluded to this a little in the last paragraph, but I feel much more exploratory with my desktop. I am much more empowered I feel to code and learn more code to further prepare for my career. It has also helped my preparation for AP as well. I can easily check the College Board website, fill out practice tests, and read the sample essays from years past. This sounds a little weird, but I also feel more confident going into important academic situations, like I built a computer, I can handle this! Weird feeling, especially considering its not much of an accomplishment. In addition to hardcore learning it is great for casual nightly homework. Having a powerful computer means I can easily multitask, which is sometimes bad if my mind wanders and I get too involved in one topic. I do like how I can play music, have multiple Chrome tabs up, download music, monitor game forums, check e-mail, and write documents all at the same time without having to load each one separately each time I switch. Its a great feeling to have so much running and to have your computer be able to handle it.

Building a computer was a step in my technological interest that I thought could be one I really regretted. After enough time to figure it out for sure, I do not at all, I love the ability it has granted to me to be able to function at a higher level and to finally have a computer that works much faster and almost on pace with what my brain is thinking. So I'll end this by reiterating what I said in an earlier post, which is that everyone should build a computer sometime in their loves. I may never buy a desktop again!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Illegal Torrenting

I posted awhile ago about torrenting, which in case you don't want to read that is basically a fast way of downloading something taking small pieces from many different users and assembling them into one file. As you can imagine, there's quite a  bit of copyright infringement in this set-up, as many movies, TV shows, and paid software are available for download. This isn't just random stuff too, you can get any movie, any TV show, almost any piece of paid software you want, which as you can imagine is a major problem for law enforcement. Popcorn Time is what I will be talking about mostly here, because it has made the act of illegality less illegal in your head then it normally is.

Before I start this I will say first that BitTorrent is a very good piece of technology and it can be used with no harm to you or to people with copyrighted content. I will also say that if you want to illegally torrent movies, unless you are a heavy user, you probably won't get caught, because the sites that supply the torrent links aren't even commonly harassed by law enforcement, and much less the thousands of users. That being said Popcorn Time seems like even less of an illegal program as Digital Trends says.It has a Netflix-type look and they promise that the files will be hid in a secret folder on your computer where you can't even find them easily. The program itself looks almost exactly like Netflix and uses a similar playback program, unlike a normal torrent where you would open a file that was downloaded. What they don't tell you is that there is something in BitTorrent called leeching and seeding. Leeching is a person who takes a small part of another's (a seeder's) file, and through taking millions of those small pieces get the information much faster. Alll of that is to say that that gives you away as someone who downloaded that file, so it's not quite as safe as Popcorn Time would lead you to believe. People are often fooled by this, which is why this is a bad deal for movie producers as TechCrunch reports, as people can sue this and not even necessarily know it's illegal, I had to do some research to find out if it was legal or not myself.

Popcorn Time is the easiest way today to pirate movies and TV shows, and will probably actually continue to be a running site with many users, despite its being shut down by the government once. In my opinion, this is the first step in a radical changing of the movie industry, that could actually use this technology for their own benefit, but which at this time is really hurting them. And a quick disclaimer to protect myself here, please don't illegally torrent things.

Amazon's Relentless Push in Hardware

If you've ever read any of my blogs or talked to me almost at all about technology, you will find that even though I love the "traditional" Amazon I absolutely hate their hardware. Luckily, they recovered my opinion with the Fire TV, which was actually better than I expected it to be when I first heard of it. Now Amazon has created their own phone set to debut this summer, and it has again hurt my opinion of them, especially since it reportedly runs on a similar version of Android as their Kindle tablets. These phones will sell because of Amazon's name on them, but their software will continue to be substandard and their hardware will be ruined by it.

To start out with the software, VentureBeat confirms that it is likely to be a very similar software model as Kindle tablets. I have always hated Amazon's software, I think that it is the only thing that makes their otherwise stellar devices so unyielding when using it. It is hard to navigate, and I have told that to just about anyone who cares to ask on my opinion on their software. Where they could hit a home-run with this phone is just to put a stock version of Android on there, like the Moto X or Nexus 5 and use the undoubtedly good specs that it will have. As it stands, it is supposed to have some cool gesture-related features that could be interesting and a definite game-changer for that yet unexplored facet of technology. Other than that, I believe Amazon's phone will be about as amazing as their tablets on the software side, which is to say, not very.

On the other side of every tech product, the hardware, they might actually be able to recover a bit. As they usually do, the phone is likely to be running the latest Qualcomm processor and a couple GB of RAM, the usual for phones. In addition, from the leaked photos out right now, the phone seems to be a mix of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy as Gizmodo speculates, which could prove to be very beneficial. Many customers are debating between the two phones, so to incorporate parts of the designs of each phone was a good choice on Amazon's part. This would allow those on-the-fence customers to have a phone that they like a little bit more. Of course, these are leaked photos, so even though it is likely that they are, they might not be photos of the actual phones, so on the hardware end my opinion is tentative.

All of that being said, I think that Amazon will sell quite a few of these phones, simply because it is from Amazon, much like how everyone buys anything with the Apple logo on it. If they changed their software I would be a huge fan, but as of right now I am relegating it to where almost every other Amazon product has gone, the graveyard of valiant attempts with one major flaw.

Technology Copyrights

One of the bigger patent infringement cases in history just ended yesterday, the one between Apple and Samsung. The judge ruled that Samsung infringed on the Apple's patents, ruling on the slide-to-unlock feature, the ability to open one app from another, and autocompleting words as reported by engadget. These seem like fairly common features that have to be in all phones, which brings into question how do technology patents work? Does the similar camera design on two phones deserve the labeling of patent infringement? If it does, how many different "types" of separate patent-worthy designs are there? This case, especially with is verdict, calls into question the traditional method for of technology patents because features can be very similar in many cases.

A quick overview of the features ruled on if you haven't heard of any of them yet or haven't ever used them. slide-to-unlock was a feature that came first on Apple phones, then was used in a different fashion in many Android phones. The ability to link two apps together again was created by Apple, and used by Samsung (among others) later as developers started using it. The third was a minor ruling, the autocomplete of words. This feature starts predicting what words you are going to type while you are typing it. The problem I have with this ruling is that none of those features save maybe slide to unlock was something I think that Apple had an exclusive right to using. Linking two apps together is a fairly common feature for many developers, so the fact that Samsung used this feature after Apple is not necessarily fair. I am grossly over-simplifying here, but by that logic it seems that Apple, just because they've been in the smartphone business for longer, could just use all kinds of technology that they have the exclusive right to just because they developed it first. I would agree with this for some things, like software features or a special motion-sensor or something, but for very common components of technology it should not apply. The Guardian reports that this is the same attitude Samsung has (ironically because they also sued Apple over patent infringement) saying, "They felt as if they could not compete in the smartphone market without unfairly copying Apple's flagship product".

All this reporting and opinion on intellectual rights is basically me saying that patent laws should be changed, because $120 million to Apple for technology that was crucial to survive as a company int the market is ridiculous. Many believe Apple was trying to do this just to suppress the up-and-coming Android platform, though it showed the entire world of technology just how big the issue of intellectual property in technology actually is.

*Side note: That is in fact an old picture, because Apple sued Samsung way down the lines several years in history for their patent infringements, on phones that neither company even makes anymore

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Samsung Pro Line

Samsung has some of the best tablets on the market hands-down with their regular Tab and Note lines, but a while ago they released an even more powerful line. Their Tab Pro and Note Pro lines ware both hitting the next level in tablet technology that no one has ventured in before. These are great tablets that are the best of anything anyone has tried to release before because they are powerful and mobile enough to capture the niche market.

The Pro line has amazing hardware inside as well as an amazing aesthetic on the outside. The Pro line features multiple cores at a minimum of 1.9 GHz and a minimum of 2 GB RAM. They also include Samsung's signature high resolution "Crystal Clear HD" screens. All of these make for probably the most impressive tablets out there, especially comparing them to PC convertibles. Some of these convertibles that previously were the only players in the market had a dual-core processor in it and cost over $900, whereas you can start the Pro line for under $400. On the outside is where they are even more attractive for a laptop alternative. They are incredibly thin first of all as Android Central claims, which is a problem with most laptops which include keyboards. Many people do not liek the added hassle of having t carry around extra weight, especially if they are using their device to work while traveling.  They also have faux leather, which gives them a nice look, in addition to a surprisingly durable design, which is similar to the plastic on their regular tablets in that sense. These tablets also come with accessories such as pens and keyboards which really add to the total user experience. 

On the whole, the Galaxy Pro tablets are the best of the best for mainstream consumer tablets. It's the only tablet tablet line with the hardware and the mobility to constitute a hard-working, extremely mobile device, especially when compared to laptops. If you are looking for a tablet that do the work of a full-size PC, Samsung has provided exactly what you need to get the job done in every situation. Whether it is for work or whether you want to play with a higher level toy, the Pro line is exactly what the tablet market needed as computing becomes more and more mobile.

Mobile Cases

A lot of times when I am working I get people who ask me what the best kind of mobile case is if you want to protect your phone or tablet. I will be comparing the three powerhouses in the heavy duty case realm, LifeProof, OtterBox, and Survivor. I personally have an OtterBox for my phone, but I would say that for overall protection, LifeProof is going to be the best option because of their extra features.

First I'll do a double review of OtterBox and Survivor. Both of these cases are rated at about 6' for both their tablet and phone cases, although as the video below will attest to, it can usually survive higher than that. Survivor, as expertreviews says, is about the same level of durabiltiy. These cases come with dual layers of plastic and rubber, which helps increase the force of the impact it can take on it. These cases are what I usually recommend to those who have young children who know how to control liquids and can avoid spilling on their device or if you are not planning on taking your phone out into potentially watery or sandy situations. I do this because for impact protection, I have not seen another company who does it better. If you just want to protect against banging up your phone or cracking the screen, these are the cases for you.
If you want all-around protection though, you want to go with LifeProof. LifeProof has a little less drop protection, usually about 4' for their device cases, but have the added ability of being completely dust and water resistant. Because people sometime give me incredulous and skeptical looks after I tell them that it is waterproof, I have included a short video below. Now LifeProof, like I said, is rated lower for shock resistance, and whereas Otterbox and Survivor low-ball their 6', I think that 4' for LifeProof is just about it though the different connections are the only real nuisance, as PC Mag says. I generally recommend it for the majority of people unless they are one of the two types of people I named above.
For durable cases, there are two realms you can choose from, OtterBox and Survivor for highly durable cases, or LifeProof for giving up durability while gaining the waterproof and dustproof capability. In my opinion, for all-around protection of your device, LifeProof is your best bet, and will keep your beloved piece of technology completely safe.

The Best Android Launcher

A few months ago I did an introduction to launchers on Android, and I said I would continue to experiment and see which one I liked the best. A quick synopsis of the post if you haven't seen it or don't care to read it: Launchers are basically changing the user interface, or the look of the home screen and apps, for your phone. Many people like to stick out and have a more functional set-up at the same time. My friend showed me Themer two weeks ago, and it is the best launcher I have ever tested because of its customizing abilities for the home screen and the app tray.

Themer, though still in its Beta stages, is the most easily customizable launcher I have ever seen before. You can go into their them store, find one you like, and hit apply. On other launchers, you often have to go and download separate files in order to apply a new them. Themer, as backs up, is the easiest launcher to change. This ease is nice, especially for those who get bored when things stay the same. I have changed my launcher probably 7 times since I downloaded it, and it makes my phone seem almost brand new. I get a whole new user interface that I get to learn how to navigate, which keeps my mind sharp as I can't mindlessly flip through my phone like I have the bad tendency of doing. Even if you often stay with the same thing for months on end, it is still nice to have so many options as opposed to being locked into one user interface for the life of your phone. Also with Themer, not only can you change the general design, you can change the size and placement of the icons as well. You can make them smaller or larger unlike what you can usually do on stock launchers. This is nice because if you're someone with a lot of apps that they use on a daily basis, you can access all of your apps really easily without having to flip through several pages to get there by decreasing the icon size and fitting a lot of them on a single page.

The second reason Themer is my favorite launcher of all time is because the app tray is very customizable. Most people wouldn't think much of this feature, because its not a big focal point of design, an app tray's and app tray right? That's what I used to think, then I decreased the size of my apps in the tray. Like many phone users, I had a lot of apps, and to decrease the size made it infinitely easier to scroll to whatever app I needed without having to deal with folders cluttering up my home screens. I can also change the transparency of the background and the color of the text, which again is not something you would say you really want all that much until you get to experience it. Life of Android calls Themer a "hands-down winner", plus, you get the benefit of a lot of people asking you how you managed to do that!

I have tested out a lot of launchers for Android in the last 6 months, and I have had things I have liked and disliked about each. With Themer, I honestly cannot say that I do not like anything, because everything I have on it can be customized just how I want it, and I love it that way. The ability to make your phone truly how you want it is a privilege that the user hasn't been able to fully experience, and I thank Themer with all the heart of my nerdy side.

To download Themer Beta:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 Impressions

A couple weeks ago I wrote my initial review on the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG G3 (based on rumors), and the HTC One M8. Now the LG G3 isn't out yet, but I have gotten a chance to look at and play around with the S5 and M8 a little. And despite the outperforming by the S5, the M8 is by far my favorite because of its feel and its software version.

The back of the S5 and the little divots on the back is much better than I expected it to be. When handling one last night it was actually a nice feeling on the back of my hand. The screen was very well done like all Samsung phones, and the buttons are easy-to-use in the traditional layout. The software is where I have problems, and where I always have. Going off of the stock version of the S5 without keyboard apps or messaging clients, I am not a fan of their latest Android tweak. Like the previous S products, it feels like a software that is just too simple for such a powerful phone. The layout is wide, the page-turning speed is slow, and the keyboard has an incredibly basic look to it.

Comparing this to the M8 wins for me hands down. While I'm told hardware-wise this phone doesn't quite stack up to the S5, I would buy the M8 in an instant over the S5. The appearance materials of the M8 are much better. I am a huge fan of the aluminum because it aes it feel like it is a solid phone. The plastic on the S5 feels cheap and belittles the strength of the phone. I love the layout of the software on the M8, because HTC didn't relly butcher their software tweak like Samsung did, it still feels very crisp and fast looking at only the stock software you get on the phone.

Overall from my first impressions, I love the M8, definitely much more than the S5, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. The M8 is a solid device that I feel has the most functional operating system of the newest phones right now. Without a doubt in my mind the HTC One M8 is a much better phone than the Samsung Galaxy S5 because of its feel and its stock software.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glass Revisited

After being sold to select test groups for over a year, 3 days ago Google Glass is being sold to the general public for the low low price of $1,500. I wrote a blog about this a few months ago and my general idea was that this could be an amazing piece of technology if they got a little more useful apps. Unfortunately, while some cool apps have been developed, nothing really uses Glass' full potential. I don't think that Glass will sell well at all because of its lack of development for its incredibly high price.

So maybe you're thinking about shelling out the $1,500 in order to be on the forefront of the "next big thing" in technology. To start off on dampening your spirit, you're not, there were people who had it over a year ago, so you would really just be the person who was willing to pay a lot for new technology. The second reason I would discourage you is because for the same price Google promised, they do not have the functionality that they promised. They do have the whole navigation, messaging, and sports help, but it's really not anything special, basically the same stuff you can get on your phone. The obvious advantage is that you can see it right in front of your eyes, but once again I wonder if it's really worth the $1,500. Then you've got the wider app market, and this includes really interesting apps. There's one that keeps track of your homework for you, you can play some games by tilting your head, or blinking your eyes, etc. Some apps are likely to spring up soon, especially as developers are getting exposed to a wider customer base, albeit not all that much of an increase considering the price of the device. Nobody's really going to get rich off of Glass apps so there's not going to be a whole lot of competition and innovation in the market.

So for the overall functionality in your life over the phone you probably already have, there is absolutely no justification for spending the outrageous $1,500. I would recommend buying a tablet, a computer, and a TV for the price you were planning to spend. Maybe in the next couple years as the price of the Glass is inevitably lowered and the amount of useful apps is inevitably increased, that is when I would recommend buying one. At this point, if you decide to buy one you won't get a whole lot of use out of it unless you enjoy getting curious looks from people on the street.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Remote Desktop Technology (Teamviewer)

Remote desktop is a big deal among a lot of people who play around with technology a lot, much more than me. I am just trying it out for the first time on my desktop today, and I'm curious to see how it's going to work. In the most basic sense, remote desktop just allows you to control one device from another, sort of a remote control, hence the name. I believe it is useful mostly for business purposes as opposed to personal use because it allows greater mobility while working and allows you to use strong hardware on a mobile device.

Being able to control your computer from anywhere is a good business tool because it increases your mobility while working. Although this is not a favorite activity for many working people, it allows you to work more easily while at home or on vacation when you can only bring your phone or you can't bring a laptop, and as Business News Daily reports, can help exponentially with IT support. As it is known by probably everyone, phones just can't do what a computer can, it doesn't have enough development yet to do that. Being able to control your computer from your phone gives it at least some of the advantages you get on a computer, mainly access to programs. Many more specialized softwares are not available on mobile devices yet, softwares that are on company computers. Remote desktops allow you to use those programs. It also lets you share files with your computer so that if you have the support for a program on your mobile device. And while its fun to do on a personal computer, it really isn't essential to any part of your life. As I wrote the beginning of this post I downloaded a remote desktop software called Teamviewer, and tried it out. It's really fun, but at the moment I really can't think of anything I really need it for on a weekly basis, much less a daily basis. In business, it is much more easily utilized because it gives you greater mobility while working, and it also allows you to utilize stronger hardware.

Remote desktop software allows you to take a smartphone and use it like a full computer, even though the hardware in a smartphone is generally less powerful because of its small size. Where this would be especially useful in business is in 3D graphics. Most phones cannot handle the graphics that you can get with just about any desktop graphics card. If you're out and about and want to show somebody a design you made, you can pull up a remote desktop and can access it for them that way, and it will be a fully functional computer screen that you can interact with just as if you were actually in your office. Once again, for personal use, this feature isn't really a big deal. You can't game on your phone if you have a remote desktop, and most programs that a personal user would want to run for any reason while they were out are usually available on the mobile device. Software for remote desktops is really only viable for business because lets you take control of stronger hardware in a mobile situation.

Having played around with Teamviewer a little bit, I am starting to realize that its kind of a pain to do anything functional on it, like write a paper. Business is the only thing I see it actually being viable for because there are moments in your job where you need something, no matter how hard it is, or you need to show someone something when you aren't near your computer. For personal use, it really is just not worth the hassle, especially since you aren't getting paid for living.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Modular Devices

Some of the newest news in tech is about Google's Project Ara, the quest to create the first modular phone in the world that is actually a viable product as well. Modular design is using bits and pieces of a product to customize it for the user, like putting together your own phone from a list of part options. It is nothing new though, with computers being essentially modular by design, especially with Razer's model where instead of connecting cords and such within the casing, all you have to do is add their specially designed boxes into the base. The thing that is new about Ara is that it is the first time this is really being tried in mobile devices, an area heretofore dominated by devices that were pre-built, and that users had no input on in respect to their hardware. Here I will explain why modular devices would be good and where I think Google and other companies could take this technology.

Modular mobile devices will be very nice because it will be able to create a phone that is perfectly suited to the individual, including only the parts of a phone that you want, and deciding the quality of those individual parts. Imagine first a teen who is tech-saavy. Maybe they want the faster processor and the high amounts of RAM, but could care less about a camera and a sensor on their phone. They could opt for a high end processor and a piece with a lot of built in RAM, without having to pay the cost of the included camera. Then you could look at an older person who is in the less tech-saavy category. Maybe they only really want a good camera to document family events and higher storage for that, but they aren't going to be running anything that needs high speeds. They would simply put in a part that has a good camera and another part with high storage, and opt for lower end parts to complete the phone. As you can see, modular phones are the ultimate solution to appealing to a wide-ranging market. This is also rumored to be incumbent in tablets, where the same principle applies.

And now, for where I think companies could take this promising technology in the future. To start off, I am thrilled that Google is working on this. They have the money and the minds to actually make something that will work. Plus, when Google enters a project, they are not always the first, and definitely not the last company to try and do that product, meaning more money, more thought, and more competition to build a viable modular mobile device. The one thing I haven't figured out, and what I'm actually looking most forward to is how they will make modular devices pretty. They can't work with the giant cases as you can with computers, and lets be honest, we all want a nice-looking phone, that's just half the status of owning one. Whatever way it unfolds, I don't see it in the near future, though it will be fascinating to watch the different projects unfold to delve into unexplored territory.

Gaming Computers

                                                        (Above) Alienware Desktop
A few days ago I completed my computer build, coming in at a total of around $900 that I am using for schoolwork and gaming. Many people do not decide to build their own gaming computers though, and instead go with something already built by a gaming company. This solution saves a lot of possible stress of having a whole project in your hands, as does buying a console, but is it really worth it to do it this way and not satisfy your game craving a different way? Buying a pre-built gaming computer is not worth it because it is considerably more expensive than building your own and it is much harder to upgrade with many models.

Buying a pre-built gaming computer in lieu of a console or building your own racks up considerable costs that aren't necessary. Many companies that sell gaming computers sell at a huge overhead, especially the very popular Dell brand Alienware. Building your own computer or giving up the flexibility of a full-fledged computer for a console will save you a lot of money, as the starting price for an Alienware is about $600 for something that you could build for around $500 or you could get an Xbox One with a game for $500. This is about the same for every gaming company selling desktops, especially Razer's new modular one (although it is an amazing-looking model). If you're looking at gaming laptops though, in many cases it is a better choice than building your own computer or buying a console. A console is out of the running from the onset, because if you're buying a gaming laptop, you're buying it for the mobility every time. Then if you compare building your own laptop to something pre-built, it is usually a more viable option. The main reason is that it is really hard to build a laptop, and if you do they usually come with large cases because your hands don't have the accuracy of a factory machine. Many gaming laptops are very thin, because companies have the resources to make it that way. The thing you'll run into with a gaming laptop though is that they are incredibly expensive. You're going to be paying well over $1000 for something worth owning, with MSI and Razer laptops running at over $2000, and just think of the amazing gaming desktop you could build for that price!
                                                             (Below) Razer's Modular Computer

The second reason that pre-built gaming computers are not the way to go is because they are harder to upgrade. Gaming desktops usually are built in smaller cases than a mid or full ATX size which GeoData reports to be around 18 inches so its really hard to get around everything to upgrade it, though some, like iBuyPower, are actually full size and more easily upgraded. This is also the case with consoles, you are stuck with that hardware until the manufacturer comes out with a completely new model, and if something breaks, you can try to fix it, but you can't just replace a part as you can by building your own computer. Upgrading gaming laptops, forget about it completely. Now that they are usually coming less than an inch thick with very few case openings, I don't know any normal person on the planet who would have the expertise to do that.

Many people go and buy a pre-built gaming computer instead of buying the components and doing it themselves. There are companies out there that specialize in providing for these consumers, but it is not worth it. Buying a pre-built gaming computer is much more expensive and much harder to upgrade as opposed to building your own computer or playing on a console.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Phones

The last year has presented a lot of great phones that have captured the attention of technology buyers. The Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One M7, and the LG G2 being some of the most popular. Now its about the time for the successors to be coming out, two of them already have been unveiled, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, with some partially solidified rumors about the LG G3. My guess based on the LG G3 rumors is that it will be the best out of the three due to its special hardware and its version of Android.

One thing that makes the LG G3 more attractive to me is its great line up of harware that its operating on, that I believe easily beats the other two phones in the running if the current rumors are true. To start off, their processors are all the same. What distinguishes the G3 at the offset is that it has 3GB RAM, which is one more GB than the other two contenders. It also has the best battery, 3300 mAH compared to 2600 and 2800 in the other two, meaning a significantly longer battery life, projected to be the longest-lasting battery on the market if the software isn't a big drainer.The other big thing that is going to most likely put the G3 ahead of its main competition is the actual design that you see on the outside. The screens in all three will look almost the same functionally, but the G3 is going to be much easier to deal with. By that I mean that it will be more attractive and more functional than the S5 or the One M8. The S5 has the obvious cosmetic flaw with the dimples all over its back, which gives it, in my opinion, and ugly look and the potential to gather dust. And while I have always been a fan of One's brushed metal design, I was watching a YouTube review today that said it is hard to hold onto and is a little awkward sometimes. I will be a little discouraged if the G3 also has its poer buttons on the back like the G2, although I haven't functionally used this feature so I'm not sure I'm qualified to give any opinion on it.

The second reason I think that the G3 will be the best phone out of the three competitors is its software, which historically has been better, in my opinion, than that of the other two companies. The biggest reason I've liked it is because its just normal. Samsung goes out of its way to make things seem really simple, which makes it seem to me like their phones are a lot lower end than they really are because of that special software. And with HTC, I am not a fan of their pages that show you all the social information and what not. I had a similar service with my first smartphone, the Motorola Devour, and I disabled it after about a week of having the phone because it was annoying. LG has done a nice job in the past of modifying Android like other manufacturers, but not totally butchering the flashiness of Android, like Samsung's slower page turns. LG has some cool stuff, like their lock  screen that shows the weather creatively, like if its snowing snow flies down the screen, changing for each different weather condition. They add cool parts like this while still having a fast user interface.

The LG G3 will outperform the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 because its hardware and its software are much better thought out. In a short disclaimer, I obviously have not used any of these phones, so this is based completely on what I've watched and read, but from what I have gathered over the last two months, this is my opinion. The LG G2 was one of my favorite phones that I did actually experience along with the One M7 and the S4, and so I predict that the unknown features of all will be similar and the G3 will again be the best phone of the year.

*No photos have been leaked of the G3 yet, so they are not included

Saturday, April 5, 2014


When was the last time you saw anybody with a Blackberry? I haven't seen one since my Dad dumped his a couple years ago for an iPhone. The reason being, obviously, is that Blackberry is a struggling company right now, who changed ownership in a desperate ploy for more market share. The main reasons that Blackberry failed is they didn't innovate and once it did, it presented them wrong.
First Blackberry Model (1999)

Blackberry used to be the giant of the smartphone business, particularly capturing the business world who always needed a convenient keyboard. And Blackberry provided that keyboard and e-mailing part that many companies could not give at that point in time. And therein lies Blackberry's number 1 mistake. They kept on putting the keyboard in their models, since 1999 up until the late 2000s when people wanted touchscreens. So Blackberry did what anybody would do, introduced a touchscreen about a year after the first iPhone came out. Even then, they hid their ever-present keyboard under the touchscreen, and as Time says, they couldn't keep up with the innovation of Apple and Google. Okay, so step one to get to where every other company was, but they just continued to use this design of putting a touchscreen somewhere on their phone that included the keyboard! When everyone else was producing thinner and faster touchscreen phones, Blackberry continued to put on Keyboards. Then, about a year or two ago, they introduced the Z10, their first smartphone without a keyboard, they fell behind to competition, as The Globe and Mail testifies. This was after Apple, Android, and Windows phones were already embracing and refining this technology! Not only were they late, it was a bad product. It was thick, it was square, the software was repulsive, Blackberry had one chance to save themselves, and they blew it. Now, under new ownership they are desperately trying to get a hold in the new car entertainment business, and sued another company for making a keyboard that looked like theirs.

Later Blackberry Models (2014, notice any similarities?)

In conclusion, I will say that I think Blackberry should really just stop trying. Spend the little money in the corporate account on some kind of pension plans for your employees to get new jobs, and go down in history as one of the most innovative companies in early smartphone business, who ended by trying to hold on to some remnant of their past, unsuccessfully, while the rest of the world looked on in sadness. A depressing story, but I don't see it coming out any other better way.