Pearl's Paradise

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled teams yearning to breath free…"

January 19, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.

A little over three months ago I picked up a Lenovo Yoga 13 to replace my small-ish Acer 11.6″ TimelineX.  My college-aged son needed a new laptop on which to do game design studies, so I gave him my 15″ Macbook Pro and decided it was time to head in a new direction.

I know.  I’m weird.

Who in their right mind would give up a perfectly fine, super-fast, super-durable, 15″, non-Retina, unibody Macbook Pro for anything but another Macbook Pro or say a Macbook Air?

I thought about the Air, really I did.  I even considered the super cool, ultralight, 11.6″ Macbook Air.  I even bought one as a super duper open-box buy at BestBuy.  I liked it.  A lot.  Very snappy.  Very sleek.   Instant on.  I mean, hey, it’s a Mac!  Duh!

And then I tried to lay the display back a little bit further than Apple decided a display should move.  No joy.

And then, because I’m spoiled by my iPad and my Android tablets, I tried to touch the screen to move around some document elements with my fingers.  No joy.

So I decided to think out of the box.  WAY out of the box.  I stumbled upon the Lenovo Yoga 13 at BestBuy and immediately fell in love.  You remember that old song?  I think it was Fred Astaire who sang, “Heaven…  I’m in Heaven…”

At first, it was a joyous engagement.

Then…  Well…

Great hardware can only do so much to mask so-so software.

Read on for the details.

Click to continue reading “Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.”

January 6, 2012
by Steve Pearl

What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 3 – When iWork isn’t as Cloud-Friendly as You’d Like

(In Part 2 of this series we looked at Apple's entry into the productivity software world.  Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are fantastic tools for getting beautiful work done on your iPad.  But what if Apple's solution seems a little disconnected from YOUR world?  What if you use Google Docs and you can't seem to get your documents into and out of your iPad so you can edit them on the fly?  Buck up, friends.  This is your answer…)

Editing In the Cloud with iWork Alternatives

It's time to face reality, friends.  Apple isn't exactly known for its open-minded approach to computing.  Where Apple is concerned, it's either Apple's way or it's no way.  (Considering that my Apple stock is sky high compared to when I bought it and Microsoft's is stuck in 1st gear, I guess I shouldn't complain too much.)

You want to use that beautiful Mac Operating System, OS/X?  

Buy a Mac.  

You want to edit your movies with that gorgeously simplistic software called iMovie?  

Buy a Mac.

(Well, now there's iMovie on the iPad, but let's not quibble.)

You want to store your documents in "The Cloud" so you can download them, edit them, and the re-upload them no matter where you are in the world?


Click to continue reading “What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 3 – When iWork isn’t as Cloud-Friendly as You’d Like”

January 5, 2012
by Steve Pearl

What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 2 – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote

In our Part 1 of this series we set the stage.  I'm a geek, I love tech toys, and I have definite opinions about what high-quality, must-use software should be on just about anyone's iPad.  Now we get down to business.  It's time to talk APPS!

Real Work, Real Apps:  Apple's iWork Suite for iPad

Let's start our tour of "What's On Steve's iPad" with Apple's earliest and most mature contribution to the iPad software cause; The iWork suite.

iWork on the iPad includes the same three apps as iWork on the Mac.  Pages (Word Processing), Numbers (Spreadsheet), and Keynote (Presentations).

Pay attention to this caveat…  

iWork apps on the iPad still don't contain all the same features as their big brothers and sisters that run on Mac computers.  Running a productivity app like a spreadsheet on a small-ish 9.7", 1024×768 screen will cramp your style in a hurry if you aren't ready to make some compromises.  Go in forewarned.  

Forget mail merges.

Forget including links to external data sources in your documents.

Forget anything that even remotely looks like an advanced script or automation tool.

If the advanced stuff is your bag you better hang on to your trusty copy of Microsoft Office.  iWork on the iPad will disappoint in a hurry when it comes to advanced features even if it will be precisely the eye-candy you wish you saw every time you fired up Microsoft Word.

(For a decent, in-depth review of the software package, take a look at this PCWorld article.  Yes.  I'm deliberately steering you to a non-Mac publication.  Gotta go contrarian once in a while even if I am an admitted Apple Fanboi.)

Click to continue reading “What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 2 – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote”

January 4, 2012
by Steve Pearl

Review: Republic Wireless $20/mo “Unlimited” Cellular Plan

Yes, you read that title correctly.

This is a review of a WiFi/Cellular phone and service provider that purports to break new ground by charging you a measly $20 a month for "Unlimited" phone service.

I can already read your mind.

"You're kidding, right?  An "Unlimited" $20/mo cellular plan?  GET OUT OF HERE!"

No.  I am not kidding.  

It truly is a $20/mo plan and – to a certain extent – it is indeed "Unlimited."

I'm reading your mind again.  You're wondering if there's a catch.

Yes, there is a catch.

What Republic Wireless is offering is not a true "cellular" plan.  It's more like a WiFi-first, cellular-second plan.

In other words, as long as you are sitting in the middle of a nice, strong WiFi signal and can freely access that signal with your phone, you can talk to your heart's content all over the US for FREE, FREE, FREE.  Not only that, but Republic Wireless is providing international phone numbers for FREE incoming calls.  It's kind of like what we'd always hoped would happen once Android hit the landscape in full stride.  FREE WiFi calling over Skype or some such service.  If you're familiar with how T-Mobile threw in something called "UMA" into its phones to allow calling over WiFi you'll understand how Republic Wireless' service works.

But remember…

The second you move off your WiFi footprint you revert back to a cellular signal, in this case provided by Sprint, and the meter starts running.

As I'll note in a second, that move from WiFi to cellular is more than just a little bit sketchy.

Click to continue reading “Review: Republic Wireless $20/mo “Unlimited” Cellular Plan”

May 27, 2010
by Steve Pearl

The iPad as a Desktop Powerhouse: Keyboard, Mouse, and… External Monitor?

Hacker or Purist?  Which are You?

There are iPad purists and there are iPad hackers.  iPad purists insist that the iPad is just fine as is, a marvelous piece of hardware married to stupid-simple, rock-solid software.  iPad hackers, on the other hand, can't resist the temptation to tinker and crack.  To them, the iPad is just another piece of hardware territory to be explored, prodded, probed, and extended.

If you haven't figured it out already, I'm a hacker at heart.

(You know where this is heading, don't you?)

WARNING:  The solutions discussed in the pages to come involve "jailbreaking" your iPad.  Apple does NOT permit Jailbreaking under terms of your iPad license agreement, so proceed at your own peril.  I am not responsible for you "bricking" your iPad.  That being said, I haven't bricked my iPhone or iPad after jailbreaking, so your milage may vary.  One other note.  The updates presented do not work flawlessly, so be prepared for some minor headaches like drivers that need to be manually reawakened after the iPad goes to sleep.

Okay, now you can keep reading.

Click to continue reading “The iPad as a Desktop Powerhouse: Keyboard, Mouse, and… External Monitor?”

May 20, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Must-have iPad Apps, Most Free, All Cheap

The problem with the world's biggest App Store (200,000+ apps at last count) is that you must often dig through waist-high piles of refuse before finding hidden gems.  Worse yet, Apple has a frustrating policy of not letting you sort applications based on ranking.  You must often flip through page after page after page of apps, most of which are throw-aways, before you accidentally stumble on all-too-infrequent greatness.

So for those of you who just want to get some work done, enjoy the general experience of the iPad touch interface, and occasionally play a game or two along the way, here are my personal favorites. 

Most of these apps are FREE.  Some of them cost a few sheckles, but none more than $10.00. The whole batch will set you back less than $60.00.  Plus, if you have a Costco or Sams Club membership, you can buy $60.00 worth of iTunes cards for a mere $55.00.

Click to continue reading “Must-have iPad Apps, Most Free, All Cheap”

May 10, 2010
by Steve Pearl

iPhone -vs- Droid Incredible: Different Audiences, Similar Results

After carrying the Droid Incredible around as my primary phone for more than two weeks, I think I can finally give a pretty fair assessment of whether this thing is truly an iPhone killer or whether it is just an "incredible" device that is really intended for a whole different audience.  I am leaning toward the latter for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

First, some background.

Click to continue reading “iPhone -vs- Droid Incredible: Different Audiences, Similar Results”

May 1, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Update: Droid Incredible Signal Strength Mystery Deepens

There's a saying in the cell phone sales world…

"You just can't trust the bars."

Every rookie salesperson knows that the signal inside the store is going to be 5-bars or better.  If there isn't a tower nearby, then there's a femtocell (the equivalent of a micro-tower) somewhere inside the store boosting the signal for the patrons.  Nothing illegal about it, it's just a little white lie.

That's why, when you get about a 100 yards down the street on your way home with your shiny new cell phone the signal suddenly drops off the edge of a radio-inactive cliff.

Which is why a I did a little bit more digging when the new HTC Droid Incredible I am testing somehow managed to hold on to calls through even though the signal meter read 1 or 0 bars.  In my earlier piece on the Droid Incredible, I shared how the Palm Pre Plus registered 4 or 5 bars of signal strength over the whole 28 miles from office to home.  I also shared that the Droid Incredible seemed incredibly deaf, rarely registering more than 2 bars of coverage over the same route.

Now I know why.

Click to continue reading “Update: Droid Incredible Signal Strength Mystery Deepens”

April 20, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Analysis: Canon T2i DSLR – Time to Dump the Camcorder

20100208 loRes t2i 3q

Have you seen it yet?  If you're a die-hard amateur photographer, you have probably been waiting for it for a long, long time.  The Canon T2i has hit store shelves and it is, with a few caveats, everything you have been waiting for in a true, video-capable Digital SLR (or "DSLR").  I won't bore you with all the technical specifications and photography tests.  Visit my favorite photog site, DPReview, for the full nuts-n-bolts review.

No, this quick look at the T2i is all about one question.

Is it time to dump your Digicam?

Is the T2i a solid enough DSLR performer to merit purchase by the avid amateur photographer AND is it a worthy enough video machine to merit carrying just one camera to also capture video?

The answer is a qualified, though just-barely qualified, "yes" to both questions.

Click to continue reading “Analysis: Canon T2i DSLR – Time to Dump the Camcorder”

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