Triple USB Port Car Charger

May 9, 2015

My family goes on at least two long road trips a year, and my three kids occupy themselves by using their iPhones, iPads, and Kindle readers. To keep their devices charged up, I have a 2-port USB charger that inserted into the car’s cigarette lighter port. One port could output 1 Amp of power, while the 2nd port would output 2 Amps. With the high power requirements of devices these days, It seemed that the 1 Amp port wasn’t good enough to charge the iPhones or iPads. So, my kids often fought over who got to use the 2 Amp port.

To resolve this issue for my upcoming road trips for this year, I did a little research on Amazon.com and decided to order the TROND 3 port USB charger. This device seemed to be of high quality construction, advertised to have 2.4 Amps of power for all three ports simultaneously.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.45.58 AM

 

I tested it the other day by attaching two completely drained Android tablets and my Samsung S6 smartphone attached to a wireless charging pad. After driving around for 2 hours, both tablets were fully charged as well as my phone. So, this charger appears to work as advertised and only cost me $9.99 USD.


A Malware on my Mac!

July 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 1.48.17 PMIn general, it seems that Windows PCs are much more susceptible to viruses and malware. The reason being, there are many, many more Windows PCs than Macs in the general public and the “bad guys” focus their efforts for the biggest impact. As such, I don’t have any virus checking software on my desktop Mac system.

Recently, I noticed a new icon at the top right corner of my screen which had a drop-down menu labeled “Premier Opinion”. Having no clue what this was, I Googled it and discovered it was some kind of spyware! Thinking back, I believe I must have inadvertently installed it when I was trying to load something on my son’s iPad. Ugh!

Luckily, I was able to remove this troublesome malware after a few attempts following a guide on the web. Afterwards, I decided to try using the free antivirus software called ClamXav to scan my desktop files for other potential viruses and malware. ClamXav was easy to install, and seemed to do a thorough job of identifying a few emails that were labeled as “phishing”. Whew!

Note, it did take a long time to check all my files, but I’m happy now that I’ve conducted the check. In the future, I’ll probably do some regularly scheduled checks just in case.


Apache OpenOffice (Microsoft Office Replacement)

February 6, 2013

At work I use Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint daily as my main productivity tools. But at home, I’m using an Apple iMac which has a horrible implementation of Microsoft Office (super slow to start up). So instead of trying to use a Microsoft product on my Mac, I’ve chosen to install and use the freeware package called Apache OpenOffice. This is basically a replacement for Microsoft Office (written in Java, I believe) and it works great. Best thing about it, OpenOffice is available for the Mac, Windows, and Linux machines.

The “Office” suite is very easy to use, and I especially like the ability to open xls and ppt files, and conversely save my OpenOffice files in that same format. I’m sure there may be some compatibility issues when using complex features, but so far so good!

I highly recommend checking out this freeware suite of products if you’re using a Mac and want to have similar tools as Microsoft Office.


Constant Windows Updates!

December 26, 2012

One think I hated about using a Microsoft Windows PC is the contant updates you needed to install. It seemed that every week you had to install 1 or more updates for security or for updating some Windows component on your system. More often than not, you needed to do a full reboot of your system after installing such updates. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t see updates for my iMac, but they are much more infrequent and in most cases it doesn’t require a system reboot.

I bring this up because whenever I start up my Windows 7 desktop machine to convert a video file (using Handbrake) or search for a pdf file or document I’m always asked to install some kind of Windows Update. Almost every time– never fails. Man, I’m glad I’m using an iMac as my main desktop computer system!


Apple iPod Nano Mini-Review

December 25, 2012

One of my Christmas gifts this year is the new 2012 Apple iPod Nano (7th Generation), so here’s my mini-review after playing around with it for a few hours. First, this media player looks almost exactly like a miniature version of the new Apple iPhone 5; being retangular in shape with a touch screen that takes up much of the front surface of the device with a round “home” button at the bottom center. This iPod Nano is much smaller than what you might imagine based on photos (actually, close to the height of a credit card but about 3/4th the width). On a full charge the advertised battery life is about 3 hours for music playing.

This model syncs with iTunes on my iMac Desktop computer, where all my existing music is easily transferred to the iPod. You can also sync videos, audio books, and audio podcasts if you like (all of which should be organized in iTunes on your Mac/PC system).

The power/sync connector is the newest “Lightning” connector which is standard for the new iPhone 5 and iPad 3 devices. The iPod Nano also comes with the new “Earpods” earphones (which doesn’t have a built-in volume/skip control or microphone). So far as apps, there’s a Nike Fitness app for tracking running, a clock/timer app, and the iPod also has a FM Radio app. Note, the iPod Nano has bluetooth but doesn’t have traditional WiFi capability.

Normally I use my HTC EVO LTE for streaming my music (via Google Music and Pandora) and podcasts via Podkicker while driving in my car (which has the Ford Sync option), but I plan to use this iPod Nano when I work out at the gym or when I’m in a situation where I don’t want to risk damaging my EVO smartphone.

My biggest concern is losing this device, since it’s so tiny! But having the earpods tethered to the iPod Nano will make it easier to keep track of the small device.


iMac Hard Drive Crash

September 23, 2012

Two days ago I woke up to find my 27″ iMac’s screen frozen and unresponsive. So, I rebooted it (which is really a rare thing for me to do) and it wouldn’t boot up. All I got was the gray background screen with the Apple logo, and about 2 minutes later the machine turned off. Since I paid for the AppleCare protection service, I called the Apple Service Hotline and had a person walk me through several checks. In the end, it was determined that my hard drive will probably need to be replaced and I would need to take it to the local Apple Store.

The technician at the Apple Store agreed that my iMac’s hard drive has failed and that I would need to have it replaced. The total cost to replace the 1 GB hard drive was around $270 US, which of course was completely covered under the AppleCare plan. The  bad news, is that the repair will take 3-5 days. Ugh!

In this era of instant gratification, it’s hard to wait for my iMac to be repaired. Luckily, I had Apple’s Time Machine backup running on my system which effectively backs up all my files so I’m good from a backup standpoint. So now it’s just a waiting game before I get my iMac back on my desk and running again.

In the meantime, I’m stuck with just a few options to hold me over until my main computer comes home. I have two Android tablets (Nexus 7 and Acer Iconia A500) which are fine for casual web browsing, but I’m limited to just a single window and can only have one application running at a time. Typing on a tablet is a pain, as I’d prefer using a physical keyboard to type anything beyond a few search words. I also have an older Dell 11z Netbook laptop that I take on travel running Windows 7 which will just have to hold me over until I get my iMac back from being repaired.

The 11z works fine, but it isn’t as snappy as my iMac (which makes sense), so I’m now thinking about getting a Solid State Drive (Flash Drive) for this laptop. A 128 GB SSD runs for about $80 on Amazon.com, so that would definitely boost the performance of my 11z and make it seem like a brand new netbook. It’s something to consider, but in a few days I’ll have my iMac back and I won’t be using the 11z very much.

In any case, it’s a bit painful to be be without my beloved iMac. I’m certainly glad to have the AppleCare coverage, as it has now paid for itself with this repair!

Update: I took my iMac to the Apple Store on Saturday night, and got a call almost 24 hours later saying it was ready to pickup. After bringing it home I started it up, plugged in my external USB drive which I use for my Time Machine backup and restored my system back to where it was just prior to the hard drive failure. Another case of, “it just works!”.


Plex – A Fantastic Media Server

August 25, 2012

I’ve come across a cool free media server called Plex which manages and facilitates streaming my video files and music files to my connected devices. I remember looking at Plex a few years ago and didn’t think too much of it, but the version they have now is fantastic. Here’s some of it’s features:

  • Can automatically identify your videos by titles and will pull down poster art and episode/movie descriptions automatically from common database servers
  • Has many grouping options such as “Watched”, “On Deck”, etc.
  • Has the ability to stream video and music across a network (either internal LAN or external WAN) from your home PC, at different transmission speeds.
  • Will transcode videos on-the-fly when necessary based on the network connection speed to the client app.
  • Very easy to use interface on the server and client
  • Client apps available for Android, iOS, and PC devices
  • Media Server program available for Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux systems

I normally take my recorded TV shows (from EyeTV) which are stored on my iMac system and stream them to my Acer A500 Iconia Android Tablet or Google Nexus 7 Tablet in my house. I have been using the streaming capability of the ES Explorer Android app (which simply plays a selected video using its video player), but the Plex system is much more robust. It seems to work great, and what’s even more cool is that I can stream transcoded video to my Android Smartphone or Tablet while on travel from my home iMac even on a slower network connection. Pretty cool stuff. In addition, the Server Interface on my iMac looks great. Read the rest of this entry »


HBO Go

August 5, 2012

HBO has a video streaming service called HBO GO which allows current HBO subscribers with certain Cable providers to watch their content on-demand from the Internet. Yesterday, I realized that I am an HBO subscriber with Comcast through a special Cable-TV-Internet package deal I have with my home service. So, I decided to give HBO GO a try.

First, the service is on-demand so you can watch HBO shows whenever you want. They don’t have everything available that they show on their regular schedule, but they do have a lot of content. For example, they have most of their own HBO Series available (old and new stuff), as well as lots of different movies and popular shows. Also, you can watch these programs either on a PC or Laptop via a Web Browser or on a portable device like an Android phone or tablet (I haven’t tried on the Apple devices, but I’m sure they have it also).

The interface is actually pretty easy to use, and the videos I watched stream well if you have a fast Internet connection. I haven’t tried to stream a video to my Android smartphone using a cellular connection, but I imagine it may stutter a bit depending on the actual cellular signal. In any case, this is a great way to watch a movie or show on your iPad or Tablet at home or on the road (with a WiFi Connection) if you’re an HBO subscriber.


EyeTV Recorded Shows: Upgraded Resolution for Nexus 7 Tablet

July 29, 2012

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I use a device called EyeTV HD to record TV shows on my iMac. The software that drives this recording hardware will automatically export the recorded show in a format that is smaller and viewable on a iPhone, iPod Touch, or Apple TV. Since my new Nexus 7 Tablet has a screen resolution of 1280×800, I wanted to update the resolution of my converted videos so they look as good as possible on my Nexus 7. I started by using the “Apple TV 2” (1280×720) setting in the EyeTV HD software, but the picture quality  just wasn’t very good (especially when compared to the free Transformers movie that came with my N7).

So, I decided to use an Applescript to customize the video conversion of my recordings. Fortunately, EyeTV has a hook where it will call a script called RecordingDone.scrpt after a TV show has completed recording. It is in this script I added my Applescript commands to process the video. I basically use a freeware product called Handbrake to convert the video from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4 format with a resolution of 1280×720 HD. The Handbrake software is normally driven by a standard user-interface, so I used an add-on product called HandbrakeCLI to do the processing in batch mode.

Below is my RecordingDone.scrpt script: Read the rest of this entry »


Apple Support Experience

June 17, 2012

My primary home computer is an Apple 27″ iMac (self contained monitor and system), which has worked flawlessly since 2010. However, over the past three days I’ve noticed at times a rather loud clicking sound coming from the back of my iMac. It’s somewhat random, and may last for 3 seconds one time and 12 seconds another. I know from past experience that such sounds aren’t good, as they probably mean my hard drive is about to go bad. Since I purchased AppleCare (Apple’s hardware warranty) when I bought my iMac, I decided to find out what could be done about this annoying clicking noise. I checked apple.com and from their support page initiated an “Apple Express” service request, which resulted in a live person calling me about 2 minutes later. Mind you, it was Sunday morning when did all this, so I was surprised to get a live call so quickly.

The Apple support rep was very helpful and asked a few questions, and had me do some checking on my iMac. I rebooted a few times, ran the Disk Utility Check (which didn’t reveal anything bad), and ultimate determined that I should take my iMac into my local Apple store to have one of their “Geniuses” take a look at it. So, the rep made an appointment for 11:15 am and packed up my iMac and drove down to the store.

After lugging my big iMac through the mall, I arrive at the Apple Store to find it packed full of customers. I had never seen it so full, and this was on a Sunday 15 minutes after it first opened for the day. In contrast, I walked by the Microsoft Store which was twice the size of the Apple Store and had virtually no one in it. Hmm, what does that tell you? Read the rest of this entry »