Where does my car phone go?

Not only are cars sorely behind when it comes to technology integration, even tech device physical storage within cars is behind the times. With your phone becoming (or already is for many) the central hub for audio and navigation in the car, it stands to reason that a prominent, safe, and secure location should be a priority. This, unfortunately, is not the reality. Every year that goes by, even though we get some good alternative car technology systems (CarPlay, Android Auto) from third parties, auto makers dig their heels in deeper and make even worse first party systems that are further proprietary and impossible to replace.

None of what I am saying is a revelation, but with a new vehicle (Range Rover Evoque) in our house recently, the issue of “where do I put my phone” has come up again. After about 6 months of driving and interacting with this car, I really have no other complaints about any part of the vehicle. The integrated “tech package” is marginal. No worse than any other, but not really any better either. The real problem I have is the complete lack of mounting locations for our phones.

My wife and I use the same phone, so a mounting solution only has to fit one model of device, which is helpful. I am completely against the suction cup mounts for the windshield. I absolutely will not stick anything to the beautiful pristine dash either. In all our previous cars (which were all MINIs) there was a great place to attach a mount to the back of the center mounted tachometer, but in this vehicle, no such luck. After A LOT of research, I have finally found a solution! The solution comes from a company called ProClip. They offer modular solutions for a huge number of vehicle / device combinations. On their site, you pick out your desired device / power combo, then follow that with a car make/model specific mount. Both pieces I received are excellent quality and fit perfectly. I highly recommend looking into ProClip for your mounting needs in your vehicle, rather than a generic suction mount. The install is fast, and the finish looks great. I am so happy to finally have a solid location to store my phone in the car.

Review: Apple Airport Extreme

Recently I had yet another Wireless router start to fail on me. Granted it was a cheapo belkin. I decided to try out the New Apple Airport Extreme. This brings me into the 802.11N world as well. Some of the highlights;- 802.11 (a,b,g,n)- I am glad to see the unit has Gig-E ports now. (although only 3 ports, I would like to see 4)- The setup of the unit is very nice with the “Airport Utility” app. Instead of going through a poorly designed web app like much of the other wifi routers out there.- I also like the fact that the unit is highly configurable.- Port forwarding works well.- Ability to choose subnet (192.168.1.x, 10.0.1.x,172.19.3.x)- USB port for printers or HDD’s (very rare to find in a wifi router)

Overall it’s a great piece of hardware with great range and speed. Although kind of pricey, worth the money.

Battery Life: It’s about damn time!

Everyone’s universal complaint about smartphones? Battery life! It’s a sad but true fact that we have been conditioned to think that if a phone gets 8 hours of battery life, that is “good”. That is not good, it is crap. My worst battery life experience was the Samsung Charge, which I returned because of this. It was lucky to get 6 hours with minimal use. That is useless. You can read about that whole incident here if you so desire.

Anyway, I will keep this short as I really only have one thing to say. The phone I am currently using has battery life I am fully willing to call “good”. In fact, compared to every other phone I have ever had, it is phenomenal. With average to heavy use, I am routinely getting 15-20 hours. Not a full 24, but a hell of a lot closer than any other phone I have had. This phone catches a lot of crap (from me too) but when it comes to battery life, no one comes close. If you haven’t guessed yet, the phone I am speaking of is the Apple iPhone 4 (on Verizon).
Does this phone have problems? Of course; they all do. But this is strictly about the battery folks.

I, of course, have to mention the “it doesn’t have a user replaceable battery” lame ass excuse that everyone uses for every other phone. All I have to say to that is, if you have to carry around a pocket full of batteries in order to have a phone throughout the day, you are doing it wrong.

Quick Hands On: Blackberry Playbook

We were in an Office Depot yesterday to drop off some packages to be mailed  when I happened to see a display for the Blackberry Playbook. I had seen many online reviews for the tablet but hadn’t actually seen one in the wild yet. We took the opportunity to go check it out and play with it for a bit to see what it had to offer. The consensus was “nothing too special here”.The size and feel of the device was very solid, but after getting past that, it kind of fell apart. We found the UI to not be very intuitive or discoverable. After figuring it out, however, the UI did offer some nice visuals.

After that, it was time to find out what kind of applications this thing had to offer. This was a source of disappointment. It seemed like every time I launched an app, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, it was simply just launching the browser and taking me to the website of those services.. I would assume there are third party applications in their catalog that are native code, this demo unit just wasn’t loaded with any.

Finally the price. At $499, $599, and $699, I am not really sure you are getting your moneys worth. If you are a die hard blackberry user and this thing integrates with that experience for you well, then great, otherwise I would say hold off.

Olympus E-P2 vs. Panasonic GF1

As you may or may not know, I made the decision to switch from using dSLR cameras to the world of Micro Four Thirds. After doing quite a bit of research on various brands and models, I ended up purchasing the Olympus E-P2. The E-P2 is a really great camera; unfortunately it was the wrong choice for me. The E-P2 is a quality built camera with great accessories. The problem I ran into with the E-P2 was more of a control issue. The E-P2 had a couple of problem areas for me personally.

AutofocusI found the autofocus to be a bit on the slow side and often times not entirely accurate.
Off camera flash controlWhen purchasing the E-P2 I noted that it did not have a pop-up flash. This was fine because I don’t like pop-up flashes, I prefer off camera. Problem is, you need a pop-up flash to trigger the off camera flash. I didn’t quite think that one through all the way.
Function wheelThe scrolling dial that is used to operate features like changing aperture when in aperture priority mode was less than good. Being that I shoot in aperture priority mode 99% of the time, this dial is a huge part of my photography. The one on the E-P2 was somewhat odd to use and didn’t register clicks if you try to ratchet quickly from f/1.7 – f/16.

After doing some additional research, I began looking at the Panasonic Lumix GF2 body to see how it stacked up. The GF2 was looking pretty good until I found out about the GF1. But that is the old model, why would you get the old model!? I know, I know. Here is the catch though, The new model is almost identical in technology, except the GF2 removed all the nice manual controls in exchange for a gimmicky touch screen interface. For a point and shoot, sure. For a camera with interchangeable lenses looking to replace an SLR, no way.

After only one day of shooting with the GF1, I am completely sold on it. It is better than the E-P2 in almost every way. I must not be the only one thinking this, since finding one for a reasonable price was difficult. Seems that the letdown of the GF2 made the market for the GF1 explode!

There is one area I have to give to Olympus, and that is for their EVF (electronic view finder). The Olympus EVF is far superior to the Panasonic; this however is to be expected since it is twice the cost.

A quick note about lensesMy main lens is a Panasonic Lumix 20mm F/1.7. Anyone who has used this lens knows it is fantastic. I have used a mixture of Panasonic and Olympus lenses, and I have to say the quality of the Panasonic lenses seems to be much higher than the Olympus lenses, at least in the micro four thirds arena.

An interesting side note, the Panasonic GF1 looks almost identical to the Leica D-LUX 5!! To be expected, I guess, since they are effectively the same company, but still kinda cool!! 🙂 (The EVF is even identical, except of course you pay the Leica name price for the one with Leica written on it instead of Panasonic)