Technology Today - May 2012
by Robert Sanborn
Spring weather has been terrific and it gave me a chance to take a road trip with my daughter during her spring break. The iPhone 4S I got has been a great traveling companion as it allowed me to take pictures and post them either on Facebook or via email as we traveled. When I purchased the phone, I signed up for the minimum 200mb data plan with AT&T and as I connect to Wi-Fi mostly where I travel, I managed to keep my data plan under the limit pretty easily. The only time you might get caught is if you try to download or watch video clips which always seemed to me to be pretty silly on a 4 inch diagonal screen. What almost caught me was that Apple wanted to download the latest version of the phoneís operating system and that was a file big enough to bust my limit so I just waited till I was home with my wireless network to do it and it works just fine. And if you want to see how your minutes and data plan usage is coming along, AT&T has an app for that.
And speaking of apps, found a couple of useful ones while traveling. Wi-Fi Finder lets me find Wi-Fi hot spots while traveling. Starbucks lets me find the nearest one for my fix but I did notice that they were far and few in South Carolina. Escort Live is what I use for keeping track of radar hot spots while on the road and if you want to use your iPhone as a music player, you have to get Headquake, it does wonders for the sound through the headphones.
My other apps that I downloaded are RedLaser, for scanning those odd square bar codes; Flashlight, for turning my iPhoneís camera flash into a flashlight; and one of my favorites, Weather Underground for reports, radar, and forecasts. If you have a favorite I should look at, just let me know.
One of the more frustrating things about Windows 7 is the fact that it really doesnít like working with old hardware. I had been using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for several years and while I got it to working with Windows 7, the Bluetooth seemed to be getting in the way of other things as well and that made life very difficult. So, I switched to a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse that I had left over from another project and it was about three months into using that combo that erratic behavior started to happen. The keyboard would skip keeps, the mouse would track erratically and no land where I really wanted it to go. Got another mouse and it seemed to make the matters worse. So, I started the troll through the Google sites to see if other people had similar problems and sure enough, there were hundreds of suggestions from rolling back drivers to updating drivers, to going with a wired mouse and keyboard. There were also the hints of Windows 7 and when you look through the help files and comments on those sites, you find that it really doesnít like working with the older wireless keyboard and mouse technologies. Great, and then I also remembered several people telling me the same thing, and the solution for them was to switch to a different manufacturer and see if that solves their problems. Sure enough, it did and so I took the same route, off to the store, picked up a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse combo and finally, all is well. Not only did it fix my erratic mouse and keyboard, it also suddenly allowed the screen saver to work properly, shut down the monitors after a time of inactivity, and it also corrected a refresh problem I was having with one of my gadgets. All that from a mouse/keyboard radio conflict? Now if only I could find a Windows 7 driver for my favorite USB telephone but so far, no luck at all.
Do you know where your website is? How about who registered your domain name? And, can you count on them to be around when you need help? I ran into that same problem last year with a personal site of mine and decided to take matters into my own hands. I still keep domain registrations with a friend who does that but you know, if you dig deep, you will find that he is just a reseller for a much bigger well-known name so I donít worry about that part. In fact, I havenít talked to Matt in years but we do keep up on Facebook so I know he is still with us. If I need to make any changes, I just call the 800 number and get the big-name companies service folks and they are just great. As to the web hosting, I originally set it up with another friend who had a small hosting company but when things got difficult, he was hard to catch, and slow to respond. So, I did a ton of research and switched over to a hosting company that has been around a while, done very well, and is very reliable. I have had a chance to call them a number of times and they have been easy to reach and easy to answer my questions. What brought up this subject again was one of the sites I write for, www.pcll.com, which was also on that old hosting company, bit the dust. The good news was that since I had already done all the research, switching it over to Green Geeks was pretty easy.
I have been long a user of portable charging devices for my cell phones and now that I have an iPhone, it does get more difficult because of the non standard charging port on the bottom of the phone. In the past, what I had used were a couple of external batteries that had a standard USB plug for charging on one end and a mini-usb plug on the other which worked great for my old Motorola phone. On my last trip south, what helped a lot was a ZipKord, www.zipkord.com auto/home charger that came with a connector for my iPhone and it sticks with me whenever I travel. I suppose I could still use the portable batteries but with them, I would have to use a mixture of gender changers to get it to connect to my iPhone and I didnít want that. It is bad enough that there are eight different USB connector types (not including USB 3.0) and when you have to use three different cords/connectors, it gets downright cumbersome.
In my quest to find something more useful, easier to travel with, and even ecofriendly, I have found revolve, www.revolveusa.com . Take a look at their xeMilo, a hybrid eco-charger that includes a 4400mAh battery built in with charging options that include USB Mini-b, AC, solar, and with the xePico; a car charger. One of the first four in one chargers. So with the xeMilo, I can take it, my ZipKord iPhone cable and I am good to go anywhere. The xeMilo is very impressive. With the two USB standard connectors on the front, I can actually charge two different devices at the same time. It is also very eco friendly with the case and packaging all coming from recycled material and is also recyclable. With such a large battery, donít be surprised that it can take up to six hours to fully charge it but they you are good to go for a very long time and they are replaceable. Another thing I like about this unit is the charging and ready indicators. On the top of the unit next to the solar panel are two led indicators. One will show red while it is charging and then show green when full. When you are charging via solar, the second led light shows green. On the front of the unit where you plug in the USB cables, there are three led lights and a button to push to check the status of the battery. Red, yellow, or green to let you know the status of the battery. I have mentioned the solar panel and it is small and with a large battery, donít expect a quick charge as charging via the solar can take up to 15 hours. This I plan to keep in my travel bag and take with us on our summer trips.