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The “Ghost Town” that is Google+ is coming!!

Article originally posted here

by Brian Booher of Modern Day Computers

Google-Plus-Logo

Let me get it out first…..I LOVE GOOGLE+!!!!

I think Google+ is the best social network on the planet!  I have met so many different people through Google+ in the 1.5 years I have been on it.  I find it so much more stimulating in being able to reach out to people of the world than I could with Facebook and Twitter.  I have more followers on Google+ than I do on Facebook and Twitter COMBINED!!  The introduction of the Google+ Hangouts is totally awesome as I can video chat with people from all over the world.  I see no reason why I should go to another social network, even though I am on Facebook and Twitter already even before joining Google+.

Hangouts and “Hangouts on Air” (HOA), are what makes Google+ better than Facebook as Facebook only allows for 1 to 1 conversations.  HOAs are really great as I can make recordings that will then be sent automatically to my Youtube account.  I don’t have to record it locally and spend the next 2 days uploading the video to Youtube with the way my Internet speed is.  Regular Hangouts are fun because I can get together with some friends and just chill out, talk about current events, discuss about tech, etc.  This is what blows Facebook out of the water, though it’s not much of a big bang as I would hope.

obamahangout1

Even the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has used Hangouts on Air to meet with people and get a message out.  Whether you like him or not, it’s great to see a leader of a country taking advantage of this technology.

There is a problem I do see with Google+.  That problem is the amount of exposure that Google is promoting it.  As compared to Facebook and Twitter, Google+ pales in comparison when it comes to advertising.  Google’s cash cow for revenue is web search, so I don’t think they take Google+ very seriously.  That is kind of sad as Facebook has been growing so much over the years that eventually they may overtake Google as the search king.  In about 10 years, I would not be surprised if the mindset of society changes so dramatically that when people want to do a search on the web, they will facebook it, instead of google for it.

It has only been a couple of weeks since this writing that Google launched Google+ sign-in capability for apps.  This is the ability to use your Google+ credentials for a login for new apps that allow it, much like what Facebook and Twitter have allowed to do for years.  it took Google almost 2 years to create this?  Get with the times Google!

I also believe that Google is dragging their heals when it comes to promoting Google+ because of Facebook’s “Like” button.  Sure Google+ has the “+1” button, but it is not as well as promoted by companies.  Facebook gets TONS of advertising reach with companies who make commercials and say stuff like “Follow us on Facebook” or “Like us on Facebook”.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a commercial where a company said “Follow us on Google+”.  Can anyone name a commercial that did something to promote Google+ in a commercial?  Anyone?   Beuller?  Beuller?

Google is also extremely hesitant to allow app developers to create third party apps with Google+ integration.  Take Tweetdeck for instance.  As of this writing, Tweetdeck is an app that allows you to post to Facebook and Twitter at the same time, though in a few months Twitter will kill off most of that ability since competition has become fierce.  I would love to have an app that would allow me to post to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter at the same time.  The closest thing I can do is using “Friends+me” which scans my Google+ profile for new public posts and sends them to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  This is nice, but still a cumbersome process to setup.  If Google wants to be like Apple and control the whole user experience of Google+, that is a losing war.  They are in NO position to be that controlling, considering that Google+ is not the number 1 social network.  Facebook can and is doing just that because they are the number 1 social network.

Google+ on mobile is also a disaster.  When it comes to being able to do hangouts with a mobile device, I can understand that Google will favor Android devices to be able to enter Hangouts on Air, but to restrict iOS users from being able to do that is unacceptable.  Unless Apple’s strict requirements are in play, Google is seen by many iOS user as being uncaring towards them.  Google should explain why iOS users are not allowed in Hangouts on Air, regardless of who is at fault.   If it’s Apple’s fault, then that is understandable considering how much Apple thinks it knows best for its customers.  If it’s Google decision in regards to promoting Android, that is a disaster right there.  As I said before, Google+ is in no position to determine where it can work if it wants to become a world leader.

The Google+ mobile app is not very consistent either when it comes to Android and iOS.  I present two photos that I took of the same post I made on iOS on the left and Android on the right.

iOS                                                Android

Photo 2013-03-26 02.16.27 AM          Screenshot_2013-03-26-02-09-07

As you can see, they are very similar in most ways.  The big difference between the two are the 4 icons at the bottom.  The differences are that iOS has the “Link” in yellow while Android has “Mood” in yellow.  Why the hell would anyone on Android want to put their mood on a post?  Google actually had to do an update to give Android users the ability to link websites, though it can only be done when tapping on “Write”.  The iOS version had already been able to do that.  I also will grill Google on the length of time it took to make an iPad friendly version of the Google+ app.  Facebook was able to do that sooner with their app.

Wow!  I sure have written a lot now, so I guess I will wrap it up here.

As much bashing on Google+ as I have done, I do it because, as I said before, I love Google+.  I want to see it succeed and be able to become the king of social networks.  Facebook is great, but it’s not very social as for meeting people without first having to friend them.

If Google is serious about making Google+ into a great product, they need to get things rolling faster NOW!  Facebook is growing too fast to stand back and figure out a strategy that could last long term, but there are too many dynamics to be able to understand.  Google needs to promote the hell out of Google+.  Many of my friends that I know personally and have met in real life have no idea what Google+ is, they only know Facebook.

It was once said that Google+ was a “ghost town”.  At the time it was laughed at because of all the people using it, but now about a year later, things have changed and Google+ seems to be slipping away as Facebook gains more popularity.  If Google does not do much in promoting, I may just have to leave and go for greener pastures if I want to get better exposure and access.

Come on Google!  Wake up and smell the bacon!  Mmmm!  Yum!  Now I’m hungry.

Have fun and geek out!

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ION iCade Video Review

by Brian Booher

Hey everyone,

Instead of having to write about the ION iCade, I figured a video review would be better.  Now if you don’t know what the iCade is; it is an arcade cabinet built for the iPad using Bluetooth.  Several game manufacturers are building apps for iOS that is compatible with the iCade, giving a fun experience for those who remember going to the arcades when they were younger.

The really cool thing is that it is NOT just for the iPad, though the built in dock is designed for it.  The iCade can work with Android devices too, since all we’re really dealing with is Bluetooth connectivity.

I could write more, but that would take away from watching the video review.

Have fun and geek out!

ZenBound 2

Secret Exit has this wonderfully crated game called Zen Bound and I recently picked up a copy of Zen Bound 2 and it is a beautiful frustration. And I mean that in a good way.

They call it a “meditative puzzle game of wrapping rope around wooden sculptures.”

Once you are realize that each tag on the ‘Tree of Tribute’ of the level brings you into each challenge, you are pulled into this stunningly rendered environment.

Flowers are the ‘stars’ of achievement for each level and there are 100 levels of which I’ve only tackled 7 and I need to earn 19 more flowers to advance.

The game play is pretty basic, you have an object with a bungee rope attached. The goal is to wrap that object in the rope, covering the surface area, and then tie off the end on nail in the object. And that’s where the challenge begins.

The first few levels are pretty simple, and they even have little paintballs that explode to help color the object to show how much is covered. This is how they lure you into thinking this is a really easy game, but as you start to move up in levels the objects get harder to wrap at 100%.

Maybe due to folded arms, ears sticking out or the trunk of an elephant, some of the objects look deceptively simple. You’ll start to wrap the object by spinning the object and pulling the rope tight around and around. However after spinning the object like mad, you might end up short on rope, so watch your length!

The physics in the game work amazing well, you really feel like you are spinning this virtual object and the bungee cord ‘feels’ really responsive. I think this really pushes the processor because my Nexus 7 gets HOT while playing it. And when you look at the detail you can see why.

Beautiful can’t even really describe how immersive the environment is on this. You really do feel like you’re looking into a virtual world, even tilting the screen tilting makes the objects gravitate to that side and it’s stunningly smooth you have to experience it to understand that you do ‘feel’ like the object.

The best part is that it includes all of ZenBound’s original puzzles and is available on iOS, Google Play, Mac App Store and Steam!

If you like casual puzzle games that are wonderfully frustrating while you work your way through I suggest checking out ZenBound2.

Bily Foster – That iPad Guy

Apple TV 2012 – G.B.U. review

by Brian Booher

So what can I say about the new Apple TV that hasn’t been said already?  It has been out for a couple months since I wrote this article, but I figured I would write my own review.  Yeah you can go read the reviews from famous writers like Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, David Pougue of the New York Times, or various tech review companies like CNET, Revision3, PC World, etc.  Do realize that many of these people who write the reviews get the devices from Apple in advance before it goes on sale, so they tend to be biased in Apple’s favor.  There’s nothing really wrong with that, but if there is a flaw in the device, they don’t want to shine much light on it since they’re trying to help Apple sell them.  Fortunately for me, I am not bound to any contract with any company when it comes to reviewing the Apple TV.  This should be to your advantage as a consumer because I am giving my good, bad, and ugly, or G.B.U., review of the Apple TV 2012 edition.  I bought the device with my own money.

THE GOOD

Setup

It’s made by Apple, so we know it works and works very well, so all you Apple fans can get up and cheer hysterically now.

The Apple TV is very easy to set up.  All you have to do is plug in the power cord, HDMI cable, and ethernet cable if you don’t want or have a home wireless network.  It does have an optical audio port if you want to connect to a sound system using fiber optics.  There is also a micro-USB port that is said to be mainly used for servicing the device.

As for the power cord, the Apple TV does not really use a proprietary kind of plug or power system.  I am currently powering my Apple TV using the power cord that came with my old Sony PSP and it fits and works.  Since there is no external power adapter to have to connect to, I don’t see any problems.

Size

The Apple TV is about the size of a standard hockey puck.  It is square shaped with rounded corners.  Each side measures about 4 inches long.  It’s about 1 inch tall.  All of the ports or on the back side.  It is all black color.  The Apple logos are on the top and bottom of the device and are shiny as well as the sides.

Remote

Each Apple TV comes with a remote that is about 5 inches long and made from aluminum.  The buttons on it are black with white lettering.  It has a Menu, Play/Pause, directional pad, and selection buttons on it.  It does have a battery in it.  The battery is a CR2032 3-volt disc battery.  Remember the model of battery when you have to replace it sometime in the future.

Software

The software is based on iOS like on the iPhone and iPad, only customized to work with the remote.  When you turn it on for the first time, you will have to do the basic setup like language, network connectivity, location, and logging in.  After that, it’s much like using iTunes on the PC.

Network Connectivity

The Apple TV is a great device when it comes to connecting on a network.  If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can use the Apple Remote app to control the Apple TV rather than using the original remote.  Believe me, it is better with app because you then won’t have to pick and choose letters to spell stuff, you just type it out.

When you activate Home Sharing on iTunes on your PC or Mac, you can stream all your content to the Apple TV.

Airplay allows you to connect your iOS device to the Apple TV and watch movies, pictures, or play music that exists on the iOS device.

The coolest feature I have found is Airplay mirroring, where you can share your screen on your iOS device to the Apple TV and see it on the TV.  This is especially great on the iPad.  Some apps will give extra features on the iPad when you mirror it to the TV.  One idea is turning the iPad into a driving wheel for racing games.  Angry Birds will just do mirroring, but it can be fun to show off your pig bashing skills.

Content

You can rent movies and TV shows and stream online radio and music from the device.  It does have Netflix access as well as MLB TV, NBA Network, and NHL TV for those who have subscriptions.  You can stream podcasts, both video and audio from iTunes.  I could go on, but it’s better that you find out yourself.

Price

The Apple TV is priced at $99.  Depending on where you buy it, you might have to pay sales tax too.  I don’t know what else to say about the price point.  For an Apple product, this is a great thing to get.

 

THE BAD

Now that we have gone through the good parts of the Apple TV, it’s time to go into the bad parts.  I won’t categorize the parts, but mainly just list them off with explanations.

The Apple TV can ONLY be connected using HDMI.  Long gone were the days of the analog component cables that the old versions of Apple TV once had.  You might be able to get converter from digital to analog, but with the amount of copy protection Apple uses on the movies and TV shows, that may not work.

I guess in order to save costs and maybe try to push people to buy more Apple products, the instructions for the Apple TV are very basic out of the box.  You have to go to the Apple website to get more info on how to do certain functions.  As much as a computer geek as I am, I had to search the website just to find out how to use Airplay and mirroring.

The remote for the Apple TV still uses the infrared (IR) signal like most other remotes, meaning that it is a line of sight device.  One competitor of the Apple TV, the Boxee Box, uses a radio frequency (RF) remote, so you don’t have to point at the device to operate it.  But to counter this issue, Apple released the Apple Remote for iOS that can turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a more functional remote.  It is also a pain to have to use the directional pad on the remote to spell out stuff for like addresses or passwords.  I suggest using the app instead.

THE UGLY

Now that we have gone to through the bad parts of the Apple TV, let’s go through the ugly. This part is more focused on what could be improved on the Apple TV to make it a truly superior product.

Apple TV is basically nothing more than a $100 version of iTunes.  Whatever iTunes on your PC or Mac will play, Apple TV will play too.  If iTunes does not play a certain video or audio format, Apple TV will not either.  Any home networking of video or audio has to be done through iTunes.  Whereas the Boxee Box can detect external hard drives used for streaming, the Apple TV only focuses on Apple products.

I will say right here that for those of you who have Macs and did not upgrade to Lion yet, “Front Row” is much more functional than Apple TV.  It will play formats that Apple TV will not.  Apple took “Front Row” out of Lion, though with some searching on Google, you can get that capability back on Lion.

CONCLUSION

For all the amazing things that Apple does for their products, I was fairly disappointed in the limited capabilities that the Apple TV can do.  I did some research and found that the Apple TV can be jailbroken, though the newest version has not been yet.  I am hoping that when I do get to jailbreak this device that it will open up capabilities and make it much more functional than before.

Although I wasn’t blown away by this device, for $100, you really can’t go wrong.  I like the ability to use Airplay and stream the content of the iPad on my TV, giving me a bigger picture.

The Apple TV is a great extension for those people who are locked into the Apple ecosystem, where all their music and videos come from iTunes.  This is not a universal media player.  If you want a media player that is more universal with video and audio formats, go get a Boxee Box for $180.  I have one and it’s awesome.  I like having the best of both worlds, so I will use both devices when I want to.  I do not like limiting myself to one spot.

Please do not look at this review as a purely positive or negative point of view.  I am merely stating my experience with it.  I will keep this device and hope to have lots of use out of it.  I hope that jailbreaking it in time will make it work even better.  For $100, it’s a good media center choice, if you don’t mind the “walled garden” experience.

Have fun and geek out!

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