HP Stream 13 Laptop

Apr 20, 2015 by

I was in Best Buy a few weeks ago, just looking around, when this laptop immediately caught me eye. It must have been the color that drew me, as it was bright blue. On further examination I saw it was the new HP Stream 13 laptop. I had a laptop that I bought on auction through Cowboom and it was an pretty good laptop, but there was something about this one that really intrigued me.

Besides the blue color and nice design, the fact that it was running Windows 8.1, had a touchscreen, and was only $279 really got my attention. You can see the full specs. here. Basically it has a 2.16 GHz Celeron processor, 2 GB of memory, 32 GB of eMMC storage, 1 USB 3.0; 2 USB 2.0; 1 HDMI; 1 headphone/microphone combo, and  a 3-cell, 36 Wh Li-ion battery. Wireless connectivity is 802.11b/g/n (1×1) and Bluetooth® 4.0 combo. There is also a microSD media card reader.

So basically it has every I need in a laptop at a great price. I am not usually an impulse buyer but to me this was an irresistible combination of features and price. It also appears to be very well constructed with a very nice keyboard and touchpad. I almost forgot that it has Dolby DTS sound which sounds quite good. Additional software includes 1TB of OneDrive Cloud storage and a one year subscription to Office 365.

After using it for a few weeks I can say that it really was as good a deal as I originally thought it would be. I have had no issues with it and can do everything I did with my old laptop. Having eMMC storage it boots very quickly. The only detraction from the whole deal is that the screen brightness is not as bright as some other laptops I have seen but given the price point and other features, in my book it is a real winner. HP, you did a great job with this laptop.

HP Stream 13

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Raspberry Pi 2 Model B+

Feb 25, 2015 by

When the original Raspberry Pi came out I thought it was interesting but very under powered. I already had an Arduino as well as a Hardkernel Odroid-U2 to play with so I passed up the Raspberry Pi. As most people now know, the Raspberry Pi was a fantastic success with millions sold. So when I heard there was a new Raspberry Pi available with twice the memory, and a quad-core processor all for the price of the original Raspberry Pi, I couldn’t resist any longer and ordered one.

Due to a huge demand for the new Pi I will not actually receive my new one until tomorrow. Actually I will probably not receive it tomorrow as a major snow storm is on the way. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, I ordered a case, sd card, and power supply for the new Pi and I have already received those. So I am now anxiously awaiting the mailman. When I finally get my hands on it and get it up and operational I will do a review with my thoughts on it. But I am expecting to be more than happy with it. Stay tuned.

Update: A comment on my page pointed out an alternative to the Pi. It is the Hardkernel Odroid-C1. I recommend giving it a look as well.

Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

 

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New Smartphone on the way back

Feb 10, 2015 by

I received my new Meizu MX4 excitedly a few days ago. It is a beautiful phone. I took it to Cricket Wireless and got it activated on their monthly prepaid plan. Everything was working great until I found out that mobile data was not working. I checked and no APN was setup. No problem, I went to the Cricket Wireless website and found the information I needed to create an APN. Now the mobile data is working.

I really love the phone. It is very thin and stylish, the camera is fantastic, and the battery life is even more fantastic. I am not exactly thrilled with the FlyMe 4 software but I can live with that and I heard a lollipop upgrade was coming soon. I took the phone to an ODU basketball game and took some photos and short videos. They both looked amazing.

Then the unthinkable happened. Last night the phone started doing stuff all by itself. Opening apps, typing, vibrating and turning off and on. Then it became unresponsive to touches. This morning I confirmed that it is truly broke. Sent an email to Geekbuying.com asking for an RMA to return the phone for another one. No response from them yet. I really do like this phone and would just like to get one that actually works for more than a couple of days.

So I am back to my old Nexus 4 and I can say that after having the Meziu MX4 for only two days it spoiled me. My Nexus 4 now feels like a dinosaur. I just hope I won’t have to jump through too many loops to get a replacement. It did come all the way from Hong Kong. Patience will be a virtue for the next week or so. Oh well.

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New Smartphone on the Way

Feb 1, 2015 by

Meizu MX4

Meizu MX4

As a birthday present to myself, I have been wanting to get a new tech. toy. At first I wanted a mini-pc running Android or Windows 8.1. The one I wanted was the HP Stream Mini, which was just announced at the 2015 CES. Fortunately (as it turned out) the Mini sold out almost immediately and has been unavailable since. As I was looking for alternatives I came across a smartphone that really appealed to me.

I currently have a Nexus 4 smartphone and have been very pleased with it. I use it all the time but it is not ideal for a number of things due to its limited screen size. For tasks where my smartphone isn’t an ideal solution I use my Amazon 8.9 HD tablet. The Amazon is OK but it has only 1 gig of memory and is a bit slow sometimes. I also dropped it and it now has a crack across the entire screen.

When I saw the Meizu MX4 I realized I had found the ideal solution to my problem. With a bigger screen than my current smartphone, more RAM and storage space, an octa-core processor, 20.7 mega-pixel camera, and a 3100 mAh battery it would be a perfect replacement for both my old Nexus and my Amazon tablet.

This phone has amazing specifications and it is also unlocked. With a retail price of only $329 from Geekbuying.com it is a great deal. I am hoping it will arrive by DHL next week. I plan on giving my Nexus to Teresa as she has always wanted a smartphone. I am also going to switch from my current carrier Straight Talk to Cricket. Cricket has announced a new service plan which matches my current plan and is $13 cheaper. I hope the phone is everything I expect it to be.

Besides my Nexus having a smaller screen, it also has a much smaller battery and only an 8 mega-pixel camera. The battery life and picture quality, along with the screen size, are the main reasons I am anxiously awaiting the new Meizu. The only thing I am unsure of is the operating system for the Meizu is a Chinese version of Android 4.4.4 called Flyme 4. I don’t think it will be that much different from the stock version of Android that is on my current Nexus.

Once I receive my new smartphone and have a chance to use it I will post a review. Until then I am waiting for delivery!

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My Low Tech Car

Jan 9, 2015 by

When I bought my 2010 Honda Element I didn’t do much in the way of adding upgrades. Basically, as far as tech upgrades went, all I had was an FM/AM radio with a CD player. At the time that was all I thought I needed. But today there are so many cool tech things you can add to your car that I don’t need but wouldn’t mind having or at least have the ability to add.

With my smartphone and a good mount, I have added GPS which I use all the time. I don’t try to text or make or answer calls while I am driving so I have no desire to add tech to allow me to do that safely, if it can be done safely. I added a dashboard camera to record my driving in case of an accident and I loved that. But someone stole it and I don’t plan on replacing it.

One piece of tech that I added that I didn’t want to add was an EZPass device so I could pay the new tolls that were imposed on all the bridges and tunnels in the area. But yesterday I did see something that I would have loved to install except I have neither a USB port nor a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. It would have allowed me to play music from my smartphone through my car stereo system. That would be nice, but as it stands now if I want to do something similar I would have to get a bluetooth speaker to connect to my smartphone, not the ideal solution.

There is a heads up display device that looks pretty cool, but I am afraid that would distract me too much from my driving. It’s just as well, I don’t drive all that much anyway and I really could better spend my money elsewhere. But the geek it me still cries out….

01carbluetooth navdy-002

 

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Amazon FireTV stick review

Dec 3, 2014 by

Amazon FireTV stick

Amazon FireTV stick

I have had the new Amazon FireTV stick for a few days now so I thought I would write a brief review for anyone who is considering purchasing one for Christmas or for whatever reason. I purchased mine as a promotion for $19.99 but the retail price is $39.99.

First a brief rundown of what is included in the box and overview. As the name indicates, the FireTV stick looks like a larger version of a USB thumb drive. But it is designed to plug into an HDMI port on your television. It has a micro-usb connection for its own power adapter. An HDMI extender cable is included for those instances where you cannot directly plug the stick into an HDMI port due to physical constraints. There is also an included remote controller which I will talk about later.

As for specifications, there is Dolby sound, a dual core processor, dual-band wifi, and 1080p HD video. The list of included apps:

 

  • Smithsonian Channel
  • Twich
  • HuluPlus
  • Pandora
  • Showtime Anywhere
  • Crackle
  • IHeart Radio
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • Plex
  • ESPN
  • Amazon Music
  • Disney Channel
  • Netflik
  • Flixster
  • Tunein

As this is a device made by Amazon its main function is to access your Amazon Content. It is especially useful if you have Amazon Prime and an Amazon library of movies, music, and television content. But even if you don’t have any of these there is still a lot of content to be had. In addition to the apps mentioned above there are numerous categories of apps available for download and installation. While you don’t have access to the Google Play store and cannot load any of the Google apps that require Google play services, you can sideload apps that don’t require root access or Google play services, such as XBMC, which is one I love and runs perfectly on the stick.

The interface is simple, clean, and easy to maneuver with the included controller. As the controller does not have a keyboard, you have to use a screen keyboard to enter text but it is not that difficult to do. The menu options are:

  • Search
  • Home
  • Prime Video
  • Movies
  • TV
  • Wishlist
  • Video Library
  • Games
  • Apps
  • Music
  • Photos
  • Settings

Yes, you can play games on the stick if you buy a game controller designed for the stick. I have not tried that feature out yet. I am able to connect to my NAS and other DNLA enabled devices to stream content. So far the stick seems to be very capable and offers a wide variety of content. It has replaced my old Vizio Co-Star box quite nicely.

The remote is powered by two included AAA batteries and has only six buttons on it. There are three to control playback of content, a back button, a home button, and a options button.There is also a rotary track pad for up, down, left, right, and enter. You are able to remotely connect your laptop, table or smartphone to the stick to cast YouTube video or download apk files to it for sideloading purposes.

The only caveats I have are that it did not want to work with my 4 port HDMI switch box. I had to connect it directly to one of the TV’s HDMI ports. The other issue is with the YouTube app buffering now and then. Other than that I can highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a simple, inexpensive device to stream content to their HD TV. From what I have read it is more versatile than the Chromecast, but I have no direct experience with the Chromecast so I cannot verify that.

I hope this brief review will be of use to anyone considering purchasing the Amazon FireTV stick. I give it an emphatic thumbs up.

 

 

 

 

 

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