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, 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! – 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. – 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, 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 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.

With all apologies to Clement Clarke Moore…

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
all my gadgets were whirling, including my mouse.
My hard drives were stuffed full of data with care
in hopes that my backup plan, if needed, would be there.

With iPad and iPhone nestled snug in their docks,
Glimmering with displays of Retina fresh from the box
my Wife with her 4S and I with my ‘5
Thankful that our data plan (unlimited) is alive

When on the Amazon site there arose such a clatter
Chromebooks for sale! Get one while they still matter!
Away to my keyboard and my browser (with flash),
Clicked on the bookmark and gave up my cash.

The FedEx truck arrived, the driver was grinning
He knew it’s for me the package he’s bringing
“Good Morning to you GERD”, he says with great pep
With a gleam in his eye and a spring to his step

“Now GERD it appears I have for your consideration
a package from Amazon; could it be another piece of automation?
Another iPad, the new nook reader?
The Fire, the Acer, I know it’s not a heater!

“A Chromebook!” I cry with overstated pride,
“to compute where I want, no matter what I ride!
On airplanes, on cars, on big boats and small
It weighs just 3 pounds; it’s really easy to haul!”

“I see” he says as he turns away to leave
“yet another laptop…doesn’t now that make three?”
“Perhaps” I replied in response to his mock,
“But these were going fast – there was only one left in stock”

Away to my office I rushed with such haste
To rip open the package with time not to waste
A press of the button the screen it alights
And takes me to Google, its app store to delight

My eyes are a’glitter, my mouse works with fury
As selected apps to my hard drive they hurry
On Google, on Gmail, on Pandora and Cloud Reader
On DropBox, on Sugar Sync, on Maps and RSS-Feeder

App after app I download, my hard drive was filling
My excitement was real, my credit card a ’billing
When finally I saw, my Chromebook was set
For that road trip next time I’ll be ready I bet

So value your Gadgets, to each one give a mention,
and always remember; to my blog, pay attention.
And hear me exclaim, although I’m out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a GERD-night!”

Don’t tell anyone, but I like CHROMEBOOKS!

As most of you know, the GERD works on and with computers, and has for more than a few years.  Some time ago, someone far smarter that I floated the idea of a web-based operating system for computers.  The benefits included low cost, faster operation, and easier maintenance.  The main drawback to this brilliant idea was relatively slow internet connections (most were still dial-up at this time), and very limited Wi-Fi.  So, your low cost computer couldn’t do much at home, and almost nothing on the road.  The idea kept germinating until Google developed two new “Chromebooks”, named for the operating system (Chrome) they run on.  Although not truly a web-based operating system, the Chromebook leverages the web for most of its applications.

I recently obtained the Acer C7 Chromebook and, much to my surprise, I’ve been cautiously impressed.  I had imagined a glorified doorstop, but once I played with one I noticed the peppy response; even video played smoothly without all the herky-jerkyness I’ve seen with most net-books.  It has a 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive, plenty of space for my “on the road again” movie collection (the Samsung Chromebook has only a 16GB solid state hard drive, better for speed and battery life, but really, really small!).

The Acer C7 Chromebook comes with 2GB RAM – I upped mine to 4GB, but be careful – doing so yourself voids the warranty, and while I did notice a performance bump after the upgrade, it is not essential .  As for applications, don’t get confused like I did – the Google Play web site features Android applications and they will not work on the Chromebook.  Go to the Chrome site ( – not all the apps in the world are available, but the list is pretty good (and growing) and a shocking number of these apps are free.  Yes, Pandora, Netflix, DropBox, You Tube and Angry Birds are available along with the usual Google suspects, Gmail, Google Drive, and all the Google Microsoft Office alternatives (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc).

The good news is that the Chromebook is light (3 lbs), has a great screen (11.6″ 1366 x 768 HD), 3 USB ports, a 2-in-1 card reader, and that spacious hard drive (320GB).  The bad news is average battery life (3.5 hours), poor speakers and no Bluetooth, but for $199, what do you want?  Google throws in 12 free sessions of GoGo® Inflight Internet and 100GB of free Google Drive space (for two years), if you have DropBox or other cloud storage, this may not be needed. Go to the Google Play web site for more info (

Remember, this is not a full laptop computer – you will not load Office apps, iTunes, or any other Windows-based apps here.  However, the Chrome App Store offers many alternatives that perform most of these tasks well, mostly free.  Besides, it’s fun to play with the thing!

So now I’m a Chromer, a Chrome-Head, a Chrome-ite, a Chrome-domer (OK, I’ll stop now).  My Acer C7 will definitely be in the GERD’s backpack on my next trip.  I’ve already loaded a ton of music and movies for those times I’m not connected, and have my Google Drive packed full of needed stuff when I am online.

Travel Tech

Sometimes the GERD has to travel.  In fact the GERD is on an airplane right now (at least while he’s writing this); on his way to San Diego from my super-secret East Coast electromagnetic fortress for a meeting.  So on those infrequent occasions when he has to leave his GERD-dom, he wants the right kind of tools to play and work with.  These tools must have certain characteristics; they must be small, they must have good battery life; they must have a common plug for recharging; and of course, they must be really cool!

So, you may be asking yourself what is the GERD’s favorite travel tech (go ahead and ask, I’ll wait). Naturally, it’s my iPad, I mean not only do I never leave home without it, I rarely leave the room without it.  I have a 64GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 (insert audible gasp).  I know, I know, it’s old but believe me the thing is still a tech marvel and tops in my tech travel locker (that’s my back pack).  It meets all my requirements; (1) it’s small enough to slide into place with no fuss, no unsightly bulge; (2) it has a great battery life.  Even though it’s getting older the battery life remains terrific, almost 10 hours per charge.  (3) As for the common plug, while it’s not a USB, mini USB, or micro USB, the 30 pin Apple plug has become so commonplace it’s almost its own category.  I know the new Apple connector is very different (I like it by the way), and in time they too will become commonplace; (4) what’s cooler than an iPad, anyone, anyone?  The cool is still there and I’m never embarrassed to drag out the old iPad and start geeking out (that’s not true with my entire tech line, can you say Acer Iconia Tab? That thing can stop a bullet but takes 10 minutes to boot up!)

There is, however, more to Heaven and Earth than the iPad.  The Kindle Fire HD makes an excellent travel companion.  My stereo Bluetooth headphones are always with me (Rocketfish High-Definition (RF-MAB2)  A good laptop is always a plus; my new ASUS U46e ( packs 8GB of RAM and 750GB hard drive on a Windows 7 64-bit OS with excellent results.  Add 6+ hours of battery life and you’re got a toy to blog away on during those long flights.  Need to add more content without buying a new system?  Add a Wi-Drive that allows you to stream data from it to any one of several devices over its own Wi-Fi signal.  (

So the next time you leave your Fortress on a trip, taking along the right tools will help you get away without actually being away.

It’s The Price Stupid!

Hey gang, here’s one fun thing we all can do as we wait to see if the latest hurricane is going to kill us all; let’s think about the price of technology!

Just about everyone in the known galaxy announced new products last week.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, the Klingons, and the Penguins of Madagascar (the GERD thinks it was a tablet; the one that eats everything ate it so I’m not sure).  In the wake of this gadget blizzard there is one thing that stands out when considering this cornucopia of cool gadgets, what’s the price?

When Apple introduced the original iPad one of the things that attracted the GERD (besides the engineering, the great display, the size, and the ecosystem) was the price – $499 seemed like an extremely affordable price for what the GERD was getting.  So much so if fact that he would go on to buy 4 of ‘em (in the GERD’s defense, I didn’t buy them all at once and the other three did eventually go to family members).  To purposely misquote a famous politician, “it’s the price stupid!”

Let’s recap – Kindle Fire HD – $199; Google Nexus 7 – $199; Samsung Chromebook – $249;    Apple iPad Mini – $329?  Oops!

The GERD has bought expensive toys and inexpensive toys – there was a time when the gulf between the two was wide.  However, Apple has forced everyone else to not only innovate but engage in aggressive pricing and Amazon, Google, Asus, Samsung, and others have done so.  When good companies are forced to do this, we, the consumer, are the winners.  As long as this competition continues, we will continue to win.  Once they start idolizing the bottom line, the prices will start rising and the quality will start dropping. When that happens the era of the tablet will be over.

Apple – what in the world are you doing?

The GERD has been silent recently, not because he’s been lazy (well, not entirely because of that), but because there has been a ton of new technology news lately and even the GERD needs some time to digest it all.  Knowing how much the GERD likes digesting things (no fat jokes, please!), here is a summary of what I think, ready?  Here it is…Apple, what in the world are you doing?

Apple has invented a whole range of innovative products; the smart phone, the tablet, the iPod, the black turtle neck shirt (OK, maybe not invented but made to look cool again), each product engineered to meet a specific need.

Remember when the iPod came out?  We could finally throw away our “portable” CD players and walk around (or even run around) with a small device that stored tons of music.  The iPhone gave us connectivity, apps, and media, all in a really cool design.  The iPad was an absolutely revolutionary device – yes, I know the idea already existed but no one could make one that worked well at such an affordable price.  Each of these met a need at a price people could afford.  As I said in my last post “Did You Hear That?” Apple, for the first time, is responding to someone else instead of leading in a product category.  When you respond, you normally try to one-up them.

All of this leads me to the new iPad Mini.  Again, as I said in my last post, I bet a friend of mine a soda that Apple would price the iPad Mini at below $249 – I even went as far as to say I thought it would go for $199.  I mean, if you’re going to compete, then compete.  Apple can surely afford to make less profit on a product as a means to crushing the competition.  As I sat reading a live blog of the Apple event last week, I was excited to hear the specs of the new iPad Mini – good solid specs for a device costing $199.  Then I spent the next several minutes picking up my teeth (my jaw hit the floor, you see.  Well, not really, just, ah – just look up “Metaphor”) when I heard the $329 price announced.  $329?  Apple, what in the world are you doing?

$329 is far too much for a 7” product when the competition has ‘em for $199.  I know, “our specs are better”, “we’re not going for the low-end market”, “Apple always charges a premium price for a premium product”.  The GERD owns quite a few Apple products, he knows all about the Apple quality and he appreciates it.  But the GERD also has the Amazon Kindle Fire HD – it has all the quality I could ask for AND a price in the $199-239 range (depending on memory).  The GERD is a simple person, not prone to throwing hundred dollar bills out the window as he drives his Porsche down exorbitant avenue.  I like to get what I pay for, but nothing I have is solid gold.

Apple – I think you made a mistake with the price of the iPad Mini.  I’m not real sure what market sector you were going for with this, but it wasn’t me.  As much as I like the engineering, the quality manufacturing, and the never ending app Eco-system, I’ll not be plunking down $329 for a basic iPad mini.  Hopefully enough people with money to burn will buy them so as not to make you look a little silly.

By the way, my friend, the one who won the bet, split his winnings with his cubicle-mate.  They both taped their winning quarter on their overhead in plain sight of everyone with a note saying how they were right and the GERD wrong.  Oh well, I guess the GERD was overdue for a little humility!

Did You Hear That?

There have been several technology bombs dropped in the past month or so. If you haven’t been paying attention, please allow me to summarize;

1. Amazon introduced a new line of Kindle products, including the very awesome Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and 7″.

2. Apple introduced both the new iPhone 5 and the iOS 6, both also totally awesome.

I haven’t seen this many bombs since the last time I watched Saturday Night Live (well, those were just really lame jokes and we’re talking metaphorical bombs, but you get my point, I hope). The key here is that a little competition is finally taking place between Apple and Amazon.

While the original Kindle and Kindle Fire were fine products, there were some glaring shortcomings (limited, non-expandable hard drive space, no Bluetooth, etc). The new Kindle Fire HD’s memory is still not expandable, but has been bumped to 16 or 32 GB. Combined with the cloud storage available through the Amazon Prime service, this is very acceptable. The physical size of the 7″ Fire has always appealed to me; add the HD display, increased memory, terrific battery life, and the low price point of $199 or $249, and Amazon has me standing up and paying attention. $299 for the 8.9″ model is even more appealing. If i didn’t already own an iPad (or if I was independently wealthy) you would have to arrest me to keep me from buying one. I was very skeptical of their semi-Android operating system that acted primarily as a pathway to shop at their web site, but in practice this has proved a successful approach. I loath advertisements and the new Fire HD comes with advertisements (you can pay Amazon $15 to turn these off), but I find these unobtrusive and even sometimes helpful. I’m field testing my new 7″ Fire HD during my business trip to England this week. It makes an excellent tool to watch movies & TV shows, listen to music & audiobooks, and view the web.

Have I drunk the cool-aid? Has this Apple fan-boy defected to the other side? Do I ask questions on a blog site that no one can answer? No, no, and probably. The iPhone 5 and iOS 6 introductions that followed Amazon’s big day was just as impressive; I’ve not laid hands on the new iPhone yet, but by all reports it is a thing of beauty. iOS 6 is proving a good update (maps issue aside), and has made the existing iPhone 4S even better.

My point is not that Amazon is beating Apple or the other way around; my point is that the competition is getting closer, and that’s good for all of us tech-heads. The more Apple and Amazon compete, the better the products will get and the lower the price will be.

The next anticipated technology bomb to be dropped is the projected release of the new Apple Mini-iPad. IF this happens, pay particular attention to the price. I bet a friend of mine a soda of his choice that the price of a basic mini-iPad will be less than $250. Actually, I believe it will be $199 or close to it. Why? To compete with both the hardware specs and price point established by Amazon. Did you hear that? To compete with an established product – something Apple has not needed to do for some time – never in the field of tablets.

I think Apple will drop a sizable weapon for mass distribution when it introduces the mini-iPad. Apple will feel the need to compete and when highly successful, very competitive companies like Apple and Amazon compete head to head, we are the ones who win. Stand by, the fuze on that next technological bomb is ticking…..