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Motorola HX550 – Bluetooth Earpiece

photo 2 I have plenty of headphones that let me shut out the world, but that’s not always convenient.  So now when I want to have a sound track of my life playing while I’m out and about I grab my Motorola HX550.

The HX 550 has got to be the easiest Bluetooth headphone earpiece configuration I’ve ever had connecting a device. By simply flipping open the earpiece, and putting it into your ear start the setup process begins and the earpiece tells you to go into your phone settings and go to Bluetooth. Once you do you’ll see the HX550 headset listed there.  Tap On it and it automatically syncs up.  Connecting the second device is a little trickier because you have to turn the first phone and then do the process again for the 2nd.

photo 4The HX 550 is an amazing earpiece with the ability to support two devices via Bluetooth.  I have my iPad mini connected as well as my iPhone. So here is the scenario, I can start music/audio book/podcast playing with my iPad mini into my ear piece, then when I hop into my car I connect my mini to my stereo via a cassette adapter cutting off the audio to earpiece.

Then my earpiece becomes available to use as a traditional Bluetooth. Another nice feature is when a call comes the headset reads the caller ID to me and I can tap the button to answer.  Once I arrive to my destination I disconnect the car adapter and then resume playing the content via the earpiece and since it’s only in once ear I have my other ear to pay attention to what’s going on in the real world.

photo 5The HX550 also features two microphones one in the back for noise canceling, and of course the forward microphone for your voice.

In fact I used the HX550 to dictate this review into my mini while I’m driving down the interstate headed into the studios. Obviously I’ll need to do some editing once I get to my desk but I can quickly do a brain dump of what it is that I want to talk about inside of my article so I don’t forget anything.

photo 1A coworker and I are constantly talk about we are really living in ‘the future’  we grew up with.  It’s going to be incredible to see what children born with this kind of technology available to them today are going to come up with.  What amazing things could be coming in another 10 to 15 years.

Dictation to digital assistants  with the ability to edit as well. It’s all going to be so crazy cool I already can’t wait to get my Pebble watch, and now with my Bluetooth headphones I am literally going be connected on all kinds of different ways to the web.

To prove how great these HX550 are I did this dictation while driving in my car listening to the radio and my window cracked little bit.  So I’ve got all kinds of noise,and what should be interference coming through and yet this was still able to pick up my voice  with a pretty decent dictation. I have not had any other headphone that talk to me!

The HX550 comes with several different ear hooks and pieces to try and insure a style that will work for a variety of individuals.  This has got to be one of the lightest pieces of technology I’ve ever owned, it is very light weight at 9g, in fact we picked up one for Matt and it’s so comfortable he’s fallen asleep with it in his ear, forgetting that he’s got it on.

In conclusion if you want to have music everywhere you go with the ability to still hear the outside world, the Motorola HX550 is defiantly worth investigation.

Bily Foster – That iPad Guy

He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe

If you are a child of the 80s or a fan of the cartoons from the time, you should check out He-Man – The Most Powerful Game in the Universe on the iPad. It seems to skip the recent reboot elements and focuses on the art direction from the original. The art is updated but it has the feel of the original.

Part RPG and Part side scroller, you can upgrade and purchase different power-ups to help you get He-Man through the levels. While the game over all is fun, and a better than average side scroller with some nifty little tricks they pull to keep it interesting like the background protecting you from falling items until they get hit and collapse themselves.

However the game is held back by an annoying control system. The left side of the screen is for scrolling left and right and the right part of the screen is for button mashing and jumping. It makes me long for a real game controller so I can really kick-it in the game because right now I can’t get a fine enough control to try and work my way through some of the levels like I could if I had a real controller in hand.

I tried using the ‘Fling’ and it helped a bit with the left – right movement but the jumping was out of the question, I had to remove the right stick because the jump requires more of a swipe.

As you go through the game you can collect ‘lore’ tokens that unlock different pieces of art and bio information. I was able to unlock a piece of ‘production art’ that really looks like a throw back to the 80s toy art that I fondly remember as a child.

There are 7 areas of the map to unlock (27 levels total) and currently I’m in the second stage ‘Snake Mountain’ while I work my way across Eternia towards Castle Grayskull. There is enough fun in the game that I’ll work my way across and there might be some re-play value as they have some ‘Angry Bird’ type scoring for each level and I really like the idea of getting as many stars for each level I can.

All in all if you don’t get annoyed by the controls the game is pretty fun. I’m anxious to see all the different characters and I love the style they’ve selected. Even watching the game credits has fun by having He-Man run through some of the different elements you’ll see and experience while playing the game.

He-Man: The Most Powerful Game in the Universe is $.99 and available for iOS

Bily Foster – That iPad Guy

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

Fieldrunners HD

Subatomic Studios has this great Tower Defense game called Fieldrunners HD that I received as part of the Humble Bundle 3 for Android collection. And so far it’s my favorite game of the bunch.

I like it so much that I’ll dare to say the whole bundle is worth throwing a few bucks at just to pick up Fieldrunners alone.

You’re trying to prevent an invading Army from getting into your strong hold by placing Gatling Towers, Goo Towers, Missile Towers and Flame Towers along side Shotgun Towers, Tesla Towers and Mortar Towers.

You start with a limited budget, and build up as you start to kill your enemy. After you build up your bank then you can buy towers or upgrade them for more firepower.

As the assaulting army starts marching in, your towers go to work trying to stop or slow the enemy down in their various ways. If you can prevent the wave from getting soldiers in you make it to the next round. Once they get 20 attackers in, it’s end of the line, game over, and you are done.

Strategy Tip!

I’ve found building a Six Flags Serpentine line you not only slow down the progress of the attackers charge, but you get the Opportunity to hit them on both sides as they march up and down the line.




I totally dig Fieldrunners, I give it a four out of five stars. It’s available for the iPhone, iPad, Android as well as your computer via Steam. I’ve already spent several hours in the game with another several planned in the near future.

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!

Follow me on Twitter: @brianbooher and

Follow me on Google+: +Brian Booher

Review: Splashtop Remote Desktop

by: Brian Booher

Ever since I got my Amazon Kindle Fire, I have been wanting to find a way to stream my music and movies from my external hard drive and PC to my Kindle Fire.  While most searches ended with having to convert the files to be compatible with the Kindle Fire, I didn’t want to deal with converting and copying to the Kindle Fire’s small 8GB storage drive.

Enter Splashtop.

Home

I found a video on CNET by Brian Cooley on how to stream audio and video from your PC or Mac to the Kindle Fire using Splashtop, found here.  The app itself cost me 99 cents on the Amazon Appstore, which was on sale from $4.99.  It is well worth the cost, even if it is not on sale.

Splashtop is a remote desktop app that allows you to take control of your PC/Mac like doing remote desktop from another regular computer.  The cool thing is that you can control your PC/Mac with your finger, though you will be controlling the PC/Mac with the mouse cursor.  You will be required to enter a password on the desktop side for security of which you enter again on your mobile device.

The coolest feature I like about Splashtop is that you can stream movies to your remote device, whether it be on iOS or Android.  If you are on your home network, the sound will sync with the videos, so they look awesome.  There might be a slight, and I mean slight, slowdown due to the speed of the processor, but it’s not a big deal and if you watch the movie long enough, you don’t notice it.

You do have to get the Splashtop streamer program to run on your PC/Mac. The nice thing is that this program is free.  It is the app that you access the PC/Mac that you have to pay for.  I bought mine for as low as 99 cents from the Amazon Appstore and from Apple App Store, though they were on sale at the time.  The iPad app is currently on sale for $4.99 in the U.S.  Just realize that the prices can change anytime.

One minor downside I did find with Splashtop is that when you connect to your PC/Mac, the resolution will be changed on the computer to fit the smaller screen of your device, though you do have the ability to change it back in the settings.  I have not found a feature that keeps the resolution of the remote computer’s resolution the same.  It can be a slight annoyance, but nothing major.  When you log off the computer, the resolution will return to normal if you did not change it on the mobile device.

You do have the ability to access your PC/Mac through the Internet if you might be at work or on vacation.  Splashtop will do this using your Gmail address.  There is a feature in the desktop settings that you enter your Gmail username and password. When you are on different networks, all you have to do is do a search on your mobile device and it will find the computer using your Gmail account.  How cool is that?

Splashtop Gmail

I do recognize that there are other remote desktop apps for mobile devices that may offer more functionality as well as apps that may be a lot more expensive or cheaper, like free.  I could have done the same thing, but since I was able to get the app for a good price, I think it is well worth the money.  There are other great apps that Splashtop makes as well. Products include Splashtop Touchpad that makes your device into a virtual keyboard and mousepad and Splashtop XDisplay that works by turning your iPad into a second monitor.

You can get all the info from the Splashtop website.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me @BrianBooher

I can also be found on my Google+ page as well here.

Have Fun and Geek Out!!

 

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