Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gadget Goodies 31 - Anti-tech?

It's Christmas time, when we all seem to look forward to a boatload of tech goodies under the tree.  If you've been following our tech posts, you know how much I love tech. After all, I've done a variety of smartphones, from the old Windows Mobile, through several Blackberry models, to the Note 2 and the Sony Z Ultra.  My tablets have been a Blackberry Playbook, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and a Nexus 7 2013.  And there's, at the moment, an LG G Watch R in the mix. Along with that, I've talked about Linux and the beta of the next version of Windows.

With all that, our title and that picture to the left don't seem to fit, do they? But they really do both fit in with my latest tech direction.  It's not really very different than it has been,  And, yes, I'll explain that one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gadget Goodies 30 - Google and Email

image used under Public Domain license, artwork obtained from
Email is one of those things that seems to generate the whole spectrum of emotions.  And about as many opinions as you can find people to express them. That little guy to our right, pushing the email @ symbol as a demonstration of being industriously dealing with lots of email.  Or the comparative size of the @ sign could be a represention of being overwhelmed by the amount of email. And, no matter what your feelings and experience with email, you're right.  

Email is a very personal or impersonal medium depending on how you use it, work with it, and feel about it.  Periodically, some developer will come up with an idea to make email nicer to look at, easier to deal with, more secure, some of the above, all of the above, or none of the above.  Google has come up with some ideas that are the latest attempts at some of that.  We'll look at them, today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gadget Goodies 29 - Some Google+ Stuff

Logo variant copyright Jurgen Appelo, used with permission,
From his website at
Google is one of those companies that generates a lot of love or a lot of hate and distrust.  There doesn't seem to be any real in between..  Previously, Microsoft was the world champ in that category. Facebook is definitely a contender.  There seems to be an image problem with large tech companies.

One of the things I've always appreciated was how Google has been protective of the people who use its services.  Particularly the members of Google+.  I've been a part of Google+ almost from the beginning and have been a moderator of several G+ communities.  So, I have been the one protected and the one doing some of the protecting. Imagine my surprise, getting an email that said I was the one that others needed to be protected from.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gadget Goodies 28 - Windows 10

Copyright William E. Kraski, October 25, 2014
It's been two months since our last Gadget Goodies post.  We've already said these would be sporadic.  And it might have been even longer, except we've got several items that need sharing.

The first is illustrated by the screenshot to the right.  We've talked before about my netbooks.  I actually have two, both of which I had repurposed  with Linux Mint 17.  I was happy.  They both worked well, I could even get some of my Windows stuff to work, using WINE (a Windows emulator).  The plan was originally to keep one, sell the other.  That's at least temporarily changed.  I'll explain why after the break.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gadget Goodies 27 -- The Side Experiment

image used under GNU Free Document License, photo supplied by Shenmuelll
Windows and Linux are complete, full featured OSes.  Anything else, not so much.  Which, for the most part, is OK. One doesn't expect a phone to do all that a full blown computer can.

I started with several Windows Mobile devices, had several Blackberry phones, then proceeded to Android.  That included a Blackberry Playbook tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and a Nexus 7 2013.

The mix of smartphone and tablet may be their own corner of hell.  Not that having both was a necessarily a bad thing.  But, it generated its own mindset that was never fully satisfied.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gadget Goodies 26 -- The Experiment Continues

Screenshot copyright James King, August 4, 2014
As we mentioned, last time, we've been pretty happy with Linux Mint 17. There are both ups and downs.  We'll look at some of those, today.

Our illustration is a screenshot by James King of his Linux Mint 17 xfce setup.  On my 10" screen, things get too crowded if I throw on things like the conky window with system info that James has on his. And I wanted to show something better than the shot I had, last week, of my netbook.  Done right, like James' screen, linux can easily look and work better than Windows.  Let's talk about that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gadget Goodies 25 -- The Experiment Begins

image copyright William E Kraski, August 2, 2014
I've been rewriting this multiple times. Hopefully, this won't be a total washout, by the time this sees the light of day.  To most of us, the circuitous route through tech details or academic business papers is nothing short of deadly boring.  To the geek or or the business student, it's an exciting adventure, traveling from situation to solution.

That's an ASUS tablet PC netbook to the left.  Model T101MT, to be specific.  And it's the beginning of this particular adventure.

In my earlier days of computing, I really didn't feel much need for portability.  Software choice was limited, so my documents on floppy were all I felt I needed.  Somewhere in the lifespan of Windows XP, Windows and software options became much more interesting.  And I wanted my computer with me.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gadget Goodies 24

As you may remember, from our last two Gadget Goodies posts, we switched to a Sony Xperia Z Ultra.  We've talked about the device, it's size and, particularly, the upsides and downsides of that.  Just to reiterate, my previous device combination was a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and a Nexus 7 (2013 model).  I made the change because I wanted to cut back to carrying one device.

As we've mentioned before, the Z Ultra has a 6.4" 1080p screen.  Which means the display is gorgeous.  That's my latest screen, to the right.  The launcher is Action Launcher Pro 2 (reviewed in Gadget Goodies 16 -- The Face of Your Device, Part 2).  And that brings us to our subject for the day.

There are several things that make our screens look the way they do.  First is the launcher.  That's the foundation of the UI.  After that, there  are widgets, icons, and wallpaper.  For the most part, the combination of those things will depend on the device owner's priorities.  And, to some degree, on screen size and the features of the specific launcher.  The end result can be downright gorgeous, totally ugly, or somewhere in between, depending on the capabilities of the device user. What we're going to look at are some of the ways that can be done.  And this will be more an overview than anything else.  Let's take a look.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No More Mr. Nice Guy!

 image is used under Creative Commons license,
courtesy of
One of the things that drives me nuts about politics is its evasiveness.  I'm thinking, in particular, about Maryland politics.  We're primarily a Democratic state.  Though no Republicans have yet come forward to run for governor, the Democrats are already campaigning. And that's where there's an interesting comparison.  

The two Democratic candidates are Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and State Attorney General Doug Gansler.  The campaign and TV ads for each are quite contrasting in flavor.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gadget Goodies 23

image used under Creative Commons license,  photo by Flickr user pestoverde
In the last two Wednesday posts, we reviewed the Sony Xperia Z Ultra phone and a few cases for it.  With a screen size of 6.4", it's closer to a tablet in size while retaining the usability of a phone sized device.  Our beginning illustration Shows the Z Ultra with a Z1 for size comparison.  And the Ultra is still comfortable in the hand.

Today, we want to look at three more accessories.  One is a Z Ultra specific case.  The other two are more generic, but come under the "must have" umbrella.  So, let's look at today's goodies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gadget Goodies 22

image used under Creative Commons license
photo by Flickr user pestoverde
Last time, we reviewed the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.  That's one to the left.  We thought we'd talk about Z Ultra accessories, this time.  But there's a little more we wanted to say about the phone.

If you notice the water in today's first illustration, that should make a point. The Ultra meets protective standards IP55 and IP58.  Which means, when the covers are properly closed, the phone is dust and water resistant.  Further, with the covers closed properly, it's usable in up to 3.28 feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.  We've all been around a klutz who knocks over a beverage.  Sometimes, we are that klutz. With the Z Ultra, we can worry less about the phone being damaged by liquid spills.  That's good news.  Let's move on to the accessories.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gadget Goodies 21

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by John Biehler on Flickr
It's been awhile since we did a tech post.  And a recent change created another opportunity.  The image to the right is a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  I chose that image because it's being held, which gives some relative idea of size.  That was the phone I had and recently sold.  I didn't sell it because I was tired of it or disliked it or it wasn't working right.

I had the Note 2, plus a Nexus 7 2013 tablet.  Both are awesome devices, both work well, and I'd recommend both any day of the week.  And, if you have both devices pretty much mirroring each other, you can switch between the two, using standby to preserve battery life on both.  That's a win/win.  Or is it?