Sorry Gertrude!

The GERD has his share of maladies – a bad knee, a Thyroid that went AWOL several years ago, Sleep Apnea, and a condition known as ShortFatUgly-ness.  All that is bad enough, but there is one condition that really bugs the GERD.  Way up, way, way up, inside my right ear sits a lady (I call her Gertrude) who plays an organ.  This is a special organ – it has only one key, a real high key, and Gertrude plays it ALL THE TIME!  I went to an audiologist last year and he had a name for it, Tinnitus, also known as “ringing in the ears”.  Only mine isn’t a ringing, it’s that real high-pitched key that Gertrude plays ALL THE TIME.  My audiologist was very nice; he gave me a very useful piece of advice.   He said, “GERD, silence is the enemy”.  Once I finished giving him that strange look that only the GERD can (ask my daughters), it started to make sense to me.  When I’m in a really quiet environment, Gertrude really goes to town on her organ.  The quieter it is, the louder she gets.  Ever tried sleeping with that going on in your head?  What my Audiologist told me was to go to sleep at night with some noise, any noise, to take my mind off of Gertrude (he doesn’t really call her that, only I do).  Otherwise she keeps me up all night with her one note song of torture. 

But wait a minute; the GERD’s wife doesn’t have Tinnitus!  How unfair would that be; “sorry dear but Gertrude demands that I play music so I can sleep.  What’s that, you need sleep too??”

To every problem in life there is a technological solution (OK, that’s not really true but it’s fun looking for one).   Like many of you I have used, from time to time, a blue tooth headset with my cell phone.  These tend to be large, expensive, and weak on battery life.  When looking for a technological solution to Gertrude I found a blue tooth headset that is not large, not expensive, and not weak on battery life.  The Plantronics Marque M155 Bluetooth Headset is small in size and fits comfortably and securely in the GERD’s offending ear, and lasts for several hours on a single charge.  It syncs easily and rapidly with my Samsung Galaxy S3, my iPad Mini, and every other blue tooth capable device I have.  I wear it to bed (don’t laugh; I have a condition, after all!).  I play a movie or a music playlist from my Nexus (in its docking station on my night table).  Once the movie/playlist is done, the Plantronics stays unobtrusively in my ear.  Sleeping on my back or on my left side helps.  Even if it pops out during the night, no harm is done.  The best thing is that this beauty only costs around $30.  That’s a deal in the GERD’s book of technological solutions to life’s problem!

 I wear it driving to work (listening to my favorite book from Audible).  I wear it at work listening to Pandora.  Since it’s in only one ear I can still hear conversations, the phone, and my email alert.  I wear it while shopping, doing chores around the house; I even wear it on the airplane.  Having one ear available to hear things is an advantage in every situation, except where certain relatives are concerned.

 The sound quality is really good, if only in one ear.  Sound controls are easy to use; it’s so small and light that I forget it’s there.  And yes, you can also use it to make phone calls!  Call quality is quite good (so I’m told by those who call me), and when the call is concluded the music/Audio book takes up where it left off.  I have 5 of these things and I use them everywhere.  They recharge (quickly) with a standard micro USB connector.

So my audiologist was correct, silence may be my enemy, but with my Plantronics blue tooth headset, I’ve made peace with Gertrude.  She’s not really a bad person, but I wish she would learn to play a new note!

Did the GERD Leave Apple – Part 2

Wait a minute! Am I having a mid-life tech crisis? Have I considered wondering away from my true love, Apple, towards a flirtatious encounter with Android? I’m feeling flush and a little dizzy…I need to sit down and think about this. It’s all so dangerous and yet exciting!

Will the GERD leave Apple for Android? Will leaving make the GERD happier or would he regret leaving? What would happen to the kids (all that iTunes content)? Tune in next time to see if the GERD leaves Apple!

The GERD has taken his summer break to consider his options, for he has much to think about.  Apple or Android; the walled garden of iOS or the wild wild west of Android.

When last we left our Technological Hero the GERD was facing a mid-life tech crisis.  He had flirted with Android; he had winked and smiled at a pretty face other than his faithful Apple.  What exactly happened and what are we to learn from this experience.

The GERD obtained the iPhone 5 as soon as it hit the streets and while it is an improvement in every way over the 4 and the 4S, the GERD came to a startling realization.  The iPhone had become STALE!  “Did he just say the iPhone 5 was STALE?” – oh yes, he did.  There is nothing wrong with the iPhone; there is just nothing really new or exciting about it.  Yes, they did make it a bit larger, but not large enough.  Most of the other (ah hem, Android Phones), are larger.  The iPhone 5 has a 4” screen, newer Android screens  run from 4.7”to 5” in size, even up to 6.3”  (Ok, that may be too large!).  Remember when smaller phones were all the rage?  Now everyone wants to watch things on their phones and that takes a larger screen.  The Android OS is maturing as is the Play Store (Android’s version of iTunes).  Android tablets are getting better; better screens, more power, expandable memory (something Apple refuses to do!).

There were two watershed moments that swayed the GERD more towards Android. (1) the price of the new iPad Mini, and (2) the new Samsung Galaxy Phone.  When the iPad Mini was announced it was supposed to compete with lesser priced smaller tablets like the Nexus and the Kindle Fire HD.  To compete with those offering, one would think that the price would be similar – somewhere in the $200-$250 range.  It came it at $329 (more for higher capacity units).  That decision really confused me; however, the Minis flew off the shelves.  But I never truly believed anyone could compete with Apple in the Tablet arena.  However, I grew impatient with my iPhone 5; the touch accuracy was a little off (maybe it was just my phone, but others have complained about the same thing), there was nothing really new about the thing and the screen seemed too small, especially after looking at the Galaxy S3.  So, I got one, and I have not regretted it.

So the GERD has left Apple, and yet he has not.  No one makes a Tablet like Apple (My iPad 4 and iPad Mini speaks to my opinion of Apple tablets).  However, the iPhone needs a serious jolt.  Come ‘on Apple, give me a bigger screen, expandable memory, and maybe something new (a stylus?). Give me a reason to get excited about the iPhone again!

Did the GERD leave Apple?

For those who know the GERD, you know I’ve been a big fan of all things Apple since 2003. You see, I’ve loved books on tape for years (hang with me, I’m going somewhere here); back to when they were only available on cassette tapes (hundreds of them!). Then I discovered Audible.com; away with you tapes and CD’s, its digital content for me! The problem was MP3 players in 2003 either didn’t have a large enough hard drive, or couldn’t handle the proprietary Audible format. Then I found out that this new iPod thingy achieved both of these lofty goals; I left a vapor trail to the nearest Best Buy and purchased one (I still have it!). That led to a procession of iPods, iPads, and even iPhones. I love the engineering, the innovation, and the ecosystem that Apple brings to the table.

Then a funny thing happened – others started to catch up. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Apple got an awful lot of flattery. While most of the attempts came up short (anyone remember the HP Slate?), slowly but surely the quality improved, and ecosystems caught up. I wrote last August about Android’s improvement (https://techgerd.com/2012/08/14/apple-or-android-ive-used-both/). Google Play and Amazon have stepped up with great content and more apps. The hardware is getting better as well. Better cameras, better processors, better screens, and bigger screens! People wanted bigger screens and the new Android phones have ‘em. Apple has yet to embrace these shifts in design, stubbornly clinging to its strive for a smaller product. I find the larger screens offered by Samsung very appealing; very appealing indeed! In fact…

Wait a minute! Am I having a mid-life tech crisis? Have I considered wondering away from my true love, Apple, towards a flirtatious encounter with Android? I’m feeling flush and a little dizzy…I need to sit down and think about this. It’s all so dangerous and yet exciting!

Will the GERD leave Apple for Android? Will leaving make the GERD happier or would he regret leaving? What would happen to the kids (all that iTunes content)? Tune in next time to see if the GERD leaves Apple!

Battery Up!

Did I mention that the GERD travels?  Did I mention that when he does he HATES to run out of juice for any of his technological friends?  Is there anything more sad that an iPhone, iPad, or Galaxy (fill in the blank here) that’s as dead as Julius Caesar?  Don’t you hate it when I ask a bunch of questions to start a blog?  Sorry!

The answer to your power grid-less needs is a good external battery.  Now these things can be expensive, heavy, and not very good so pay attention to the GERD and he will steer you straight.  There are two batteries I recommend for the serious Tech Geek who either travels or lives in fear of zombie attacks during power outages. The first is for your typical phone or media device; the second is the “Mother-of-all-batteries” to meet any need you may have, including laptops.

First, the Anker® Astro3E External Battery Pack Charger.  My go-to external battery for my iPhone and hotspot device, the Anker packs 10000mAh in a battery just a bit larger than your Samsung Galaxy S3.  That will give you 4-5 full charges or 40 hours of talk time to iPhone 5 / 4S / 4 / 3GS, 3 full charges for Samsung Galaxy S3, or a full charge for iPad / iPad 2.  It has 2 USB output connections (marked “Apple” and “Android”) and charges via a micro-USB connection (thus fulfilling the GERD’s requirement for standardized connectors).  It comes with a spring USB power cable with 4 interchangeable connectors (including micro/mini-USB and 30-pin Apple adapter).  If you are using the iPhone 5 or new iPod MP3 players, bring your own Lightning cable or adapter!

Second is a battery I would marry if I were not already a happily married man!  The Tursion Ultra Capacity High Quality 33600mAh Portable Charger External Battery Pack Power Bank Charger for Laptops and Notebooks packs a lot of power in a surprisingly small (pink) package.  About the size of a paperback book, albeit a heavy one (8.4 x 0.8 x 5.1 inches; 1.8 pounds), this jewel has a USB and proprietary plug; it comes with a variety of tips (14 to be exact) for all your devices including laptop computers!  If anyone makes a device that one of these tips won’t fit, let them be banned from the Kingdom, ever to roam the wastelands, unloved and unmissed. I used this on my trip to Hawaii last month; 11 hours in the air each way and I never tapped it out.  This battery ends your need to recharge anything!

Listen to the GERD!  If you need power for your phone or MP3 player, go with the Anker – if you need enough power to fight off zombies, the Tursion will do it for you; both for a reasonable price!

Alternate Tech Shopping

Let’s face it, technology can be expensive.  In the GERD’s super-secret East Coast electromagnetic fortress I have many examples of such expensive items.  A long time ago I learned that when it comes to electronics, you get what you pay for.  However, over time I also realized that you can pay less for the same thing; thus the rise of the “alternative” shopping sites.  Long before Amazon became to end-all be-all place to shop online, the GERD searched the web from end to end looking for better prices for good technology.  It started with MP3 players, then DVD players, PDAs, and then…the mother lode…iPods!  I managed to acquire quite the stockpile of gadgets (for the coming electronic apocalypse) for less than factory prices.  I could keep this critical information to myself (I do have a security clearance, you know!), but that would be most un-GERD-like of me.  Before I let you in on the secret, here’s the catch.  These are almost always older models, usually one version off of the current one, but still a deal for those looking for one.  Here are my top three “Alternative” tech shopping sites;

Ubid.comSign up for an account and then let the bidding begin.  Not restricted to just electronics, Ubid.com really got me to research prices and find great deals for MP3 players, DVD players, even desktop computers.  Find the current price and outbid it, repeat as necessary until either you win or decide the price is too high for you.  You can monitor the bidding process or sign up for email alerts when you are outbid.  Go with known brand names; everything comes with a 30 day warranty – I’ve never needed to return anything.  Look in from time to time and occasionally you can really snag a great deal!

 AtAuction.com – A Ubid-like bidding site that offers more than just tech.  Both sites even offer collectables, including Coins.  Between Ubid and AtAuction you should be able to find something interesting.

 Newegg.com – This is not a bidding site but it offers great prices, especially for components and accessories like flash memory cards and headphones.  A set of Sennheiser Wireless Infra-red Stereo TV Assistive Listening Sound System (Set 830-TV) that lists for $210.09 at Amazon goes for $179.95 on Newegg.

Listen to the GERD; if you are going to keep buying electronics and you’re not Donald Trump, use these sites to find the best deals to feed your Tech Monster!

10 Things that never used to bother me

The Tech GERD must be getting older because there are things that bother him that never used to.  Patience is what I need, but until I get some, here is my list…

  1. Slow Internet – Remember when we used a dial up modem and that strangely wonderful squeal it would make when it connected?  Remember the blazing fast speeds we achieved back in those days when the internet was young and our patience long?  Now if it takes more than two seconds for a web page to open I’ll hit the big “X” and move on!  That being said, when in the rare case my internet slows down I find my anger and impatience rising.  When that happens, remember those early dial-up days.
  2. No Internet – This is the only thing worse than slow internet!  I travel from time to time and there are those rare times when I check into a Hotel and it has no Internet.  Only the Per Diem rate and sheer fatigue prevents me from immediately checking out and finding a Hotel from this planet.  Our society has become so used to the internet that we expect it everywhere – and just about have.  Airplanes, Starbucks, McDonalds, even hospitals and Doctor Offices have it.  The first time I attend a funeral and see a “Free Internet Available” sign on the door I’ll know things have officially gone too far.
  3. Red Lights – In my town it seems that the City Engineers have developed a strategy for me to hit every Red Light in town, no matter how close or far apart they are, and no matter what the traffic conditions are.  If the Police have a device to change the lights when they are on emergency runs (a great idea, by the way), why can’t they invent a “Smart” Red Light that can “See” traffic and “Talk” to the other Red Lights to help traffic flow instead of stopping 75 cars for a single car when they run over one of those activation strips under the road. Please?
  4. Commercials – I must admit, I rarely see commercials anymore (thank you DVR).  I know advertising pays for Network TV, but haven’t we progressed beyond this simplistic notion?  Someone give me a pay-for-channel menu and let me make my own choices.  It works pretty well everywhere it is used (Pay-for-view events, Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes).  I can buy almost any TV episode for $1.99 ($2.99 for HD) and it’s mine forever with no commercials.  Have you seen that Football games (just a few for now) are available on iTunes?  No commercials, just the entire game (i.e. Super Bowl XLII) for $2.99!  I like it!
  5. Network TV – See above.  Some of the worst ideas ever created by mankind are on display most any night on Network TV and reality shows are the worse. Other than sports, I watch one (count ‘em, one) network TV show.  You Keep up with the Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, have a Storage War and be Amish in the City.  Give me an old Carol Brunette or Magnum P.I. episode anytime. 
  6. USB 2 – Did I say I hate slow things?  USB 2 officially falls into that category.  With external hard drives reaching 3TB in size and with prices falling faster than a Meteorite in Russia, USB 3 just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Send USB 2 to the land of 8-track tapes, dot matrix printers, and floppy disks and speed up my life!
  7. Non-standard connectors – As a Tech GERD I have lots of electronic toys.  My specialty is Bluetooth headphones – I must have 8 or 10 different ones.  The ones that get used are not only the best; they are the ones with a standard power connector (Mini or Micro-USB).  I have one set of Bluetooth headphones I can never use again.  It has a unique connector (I hate unique when it comes to connectors) that I lost long ago, so it will never be charged again. I never buy a headphone or other like item until I’m satisfied it has a standard power connector.  
  8. Lack of Bluetooth – When the original Kindle fire came out, it did not have Bluetooth.  Something about saving money or some other poor excuse.  Did you notice that when the Kindle Fire HD came out it had Bluetooth?  Can you name a successful device that doesn’t have Bluetooth?  Do me favor technology producers around the world; never make the mistake of a Bluetooth-less device again!
  9. Internet Flamers – I used to read the comments section on a variety of web sites, especially Technology sites, but also news, sports, and politics.  Regardless of the topic, you will always find at least two or three who feel the need to harshly criticize whatever is being talked about.  When I say harshly, I mean nastily, viciously, even brutally assaulting the topic, the writer, or both.  I call these “Internet Flamers” – the only way they can get noticed is to be so blatantly ignorant.  They enjoy it even more when others fall for the trap and answer back, encouraging the anonymous flamer to go even further.  The anonymous nature of these comments (can anyone say Twitter?) encourages stupidity and meanness; avoid them!
  10. Lists of “10 Things that…”– I know, I know; I’m violating my own pet peeve here, but the web is full of top ten lists.  The technology sites are full of “Top Ten Phones” or “Top Ten MP3 Players”, or my favorite, “Top Ten Things We Want to See in the Next Release of …”  Many times the tenth item is a link to another list of “Top Ten Things That…”  It never ends…

Memory is the first thing to go…

The GERD has been very busy lately, you know, playing with gadgets. Lest you think otherwise, the GERD not only buys gadgets for himself. Why, it’s a wide smile indeed that spreads itself across this old tired GERD’s face (and across his multiple chins) when he can share a gadget with a loved one!

Recently my oldest daughter (you know the soon to be famous comic book artist and all around most talented Animation artist to ever grace the hallowed halls of SCAD), was home for the holidays. She was still using the same Sony laptop we bought her when she was in High School (and never complained about it!). That Duel Core Pentium piece of loveliness, combined with her Cintiq graphics tablet had stood up well to the rigors of our daughter’s feverish artistic triumphs over the years. However, it made the GERD a little sick to his stomach looking at his darling Daughter use that piece of antiquated hardware and, having just obtained a refurbished Asus Core i7 laptop at a very reasonable price from a top-secret source (ok, it was from ubid.com), the old GERD felt it was time for my Artist to get an upgrade.

Not content with the new gadget as I found it, the GERD felt the need to “tweak” it just a bit, but what to do?? It already had a 500GB hard drive! Hmmm, how about blasting the RAM! Well why not? Since we were running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, I could remove that paltry 4GB of RAM and, with the help of Amazon.com and Kingston ValueRAM 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 (PC3-12800) Non-ECC CL11 SODIMM Notebook Memory (KVR16S11/8), pump up the volume to the tune of 16GB. Take that Leonardo da Vinci!
For those playing at home and still using a 32-Bit Operating System, you are stuck with at MOST a little under 4GB of usable RAM; not matter how much you have installed, you’ll only see that first <4GB. However, once you upgrade that OS to a 64-Bit version, you can go up to at least 8GB, perhaps 16GB, and, if you want to go crazy, you can go up to 192GB (it depends on what version of windows you are using).

Remember, few things can immediately improve a computer’s performance like additional RAM. My benchmarks have seen a 35-40 second improvement in boot and app launch times when going from 4GB to 8GB of RAM. Zoom to 16GB (OS permitting) and things speed up even more. There is a limit, of course, to this speed train. My recommendation is to stick with no more than 16GB for laptops and most desktops, unless you perform some very serious graphic intensive operations.