Sunday, July 31, 2011

What sized laptop is best for you? - Balanced Mobility

If you are getting a small highly portable laptop as a second machine we suggest you read our guide at this link:

Many I suspect would prefer having one laptop which is small and light enough to carry around, and big enough to use as a primary personal computer. The best size for this job are 13-inch laptops. Typical 13 x 9 x 1 inches in sizes or smaller, and weighing in at 2.6 to 3.8 pounds, your 13-inch ultraportable is just a bit bigger and slightly heavier than smaller 11 and 12 inch laptops. Like the smaller laptops, most do not have a optical drive. However, unlike the 11 and 12 inch models where you have a nice choice of entry level models, the 13-inch ultraportable typically costs substantially more.

MSI X370x

In this category there is the AMD Fusion powered 13.4-inch MSI X370x. It weighs in at a light 3.2 pounds and priced at just Php21,995, makes it seem like an excellent choice. However, packed with a 4-cell battery, the MSI X370x will give you just over 3 hours of battery life, which is a bit too little these days for a carry machine. There is a 8-cell battery available for the MSI X370x. This will bring up the weight to 3.6 pounds, but the over 6-hour battery life, and low cost would make this a good choice. As far as I know, the 8-cell battery is not available in the Philippines.

The next viable option at this category is Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B which will set you back Php59,990. I am not sure why there is such a large gap between the entry level model and the next current model. There are available 13-inch ultraportables priced in between these two, but I noticed that these are older 2009 and early 2010 models, with the newer 2010 and 2011 models not being brought into the Philippines yet. On example is Asus new for 2011 U36J. We have been waiting for it to hit the shelves since its February. So far, we have not seen it here yet.

Sony Vaio SB

The Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B is part of Sonys "SB" line. It weighs in a 3.8 pounds, which is on the higher end of the weight scale, but it does come with an internal optical drive, which could make the additional weight good for some. Battery life is almost six hours. There are several other Vaio SB models with better specifications than the Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B, however, they are priced higher than Php59,990, but at higher prices the MacBook Air's are more interesting.

MacBook Air

A better choice at this category is to spend a few more thousand pesos, and get a 13-inch MacBook Air. It is priced highers at Php65,990, but weighs in at only 3 pounds (almost a pound less) and gives you an additional hour of battery life as against the Vaio. On the minus side, you lose the optical drive and instead of a 320GB hard drive you get a smaller but much faster 128GB solid state drive (SSD's). I cannot say enough about SSD's, it is amazing how much faster they make a computer feel. You can get a 256GB hard drive with the 13-inch MacBook Air, but that ups the price to all of Php79,900. 

There are other options at this price range, like the Samsung 900X3A which is very similar to the 13-inch MacBook Air, and a bit lighter (2.9 pounds versus 3 pounds), but it is priced Php79,900 with a 128GB SSD for storage. At this price the 13-inch MacBook Air with a 256GB SSD makes more sense.

After this, well we have the new Sony Vaio Z which weighs in at just 2.6 pounds and has a full HD 1920 x 1080 13-inch screen. We have not seen it locally, but expect it to cost upwards of Php100K.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What sized laptop is best for you? - Frequent fliers and road warriors

Frequent fliers on those who need a laptop only for the road. If you already have a desktop or a larger laptop for use at home or in the office, the 11.6 or 12.5-inch laptop is probably the best choice for you. With dimension of about 12 x 8.5 x 1.2 inches of smaller weighing between 2.4-3.6 pounds with a 6-cell battery, this laptop will fit in large handbag, briefcase and is a nice compact size to carried in a sleeve case. If you fly a lot, these small laptops fit nicely on an airplane seat back. 

Powered by an AMD E-350 processor and Radeon 6310 graphics or Intel i3 or i5 processors, with Intel HD graphics these laptops are not short on power.  

Among the models officially released in the Philippines, a good choice on the low end of the budget scale is the HP Pavilion DM1z which has a suggested retail price of Php22,900. Another good choice for those looking for a bit more processing power is the Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 11 at Php29,900. The most popular choice in this category is undoubtedly Apple's MacBook Air starting as Php49,900. Those looking for the best that money can offer should look at the Lenovo Thinkpad X220 with its 13 hour battery life, which is 2 times longer than the others we mentioned here can provide. At Php68,400 it is not cheap, but the battery life and solid construction make it a excellent choice.

You may want to make one of these you one and only computer, but the small 11.6 to 12.5-inch screens will probably be smaller than you want. You can always plug it in to your external monitor of HD LCD TV when at home or in the office.

If you really want one machine to be both a carry machine and a carry around unit, you may want to looks at this article:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fastest mobile internet

I remember when Globe Visibility first came out offering high speed internet. The service promised and delivered 1.4Mbps for Php2,000 per month. Network congestion soon changed that. I think Globe Telecom was expecting people to use it on laptops, and not plugged to desktops 24/7. Some people even used them as internet connections for Internet Cafe's. High-speed broadband was in its infancy, so these were just growing pains.

If you are looking for the fastest mobile internet today, you have two choices. 

a) Globe Telecom offers its Tatoo Tonino Lamborghini promising 10Mbps, a postpaid service for Php2,199 a month. This can be availed of with a USB Modem or a personal WiFi modem.  

b) Smart Communications is offering its Smart Bro Rocket Plug-It promising 12Mbps. This is a prepaid service at Php10 for 30 minutes. The USB modem will cost you Php3,995.  

Service is not yet nationwide so check on network coverage for the higher speeds before availing of either service. 

If Smart keeps their service time limited or caps the bandwidth, I think I will be availing of their Rocket. I don't need a lot of bandwidth, but especially on the road, I would like it fast. Of who knows, maybe now we will get a unlimited un-congested network. Being one of the early adopters of Globe's Visibility, I will sit this one out for a bit and see how it plays out.

Smart is offering the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 plus phone on postpaid plans

Smart Communications is offering the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 bundled with a phone for postpaid subscribers.

  • Plan 2500 (Consumable plan) -  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 plus Samsung Corby 2
  • Plan 3000 (Data, call and text plan) -  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 plus Samsung Galaxy Mini 
  • Plan 4000 (Data, call and text plan) -  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 plus Samsung Galaxy Ace

We do not have the details of the whether the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 being offered is a WiFi only model, or WiFi and 3G model. We also have no idea on the lock-in period, but it will be at least 24 months.

You can reserve your Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 combo at this link. Promo period is from June 27 to August 12, 2011.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Around the web: Mango enters the fray, Tablet wars and wars

With Microsoft signing off on the Mango build, Mango has finally arrived. has details on the first ever Windows Phone 7 Mango device. It has a 3.7-inch screen, 32GB of internal memory, and a whopping 13.2 megapixel camera... and no, its not a Nokia. The phone is the Fujitsu Toshiba au IS12T. Before you get to excited, this is slated to be a Japan only release.

Phone Arena, used to services of DisplayMate, which found in that the new PLS-LCD screen of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is superior to, the IPS-LCD on the Apple iPad 2 "in slightly more categories, with the only hindrance being the oversaturated colors on Samsung's best tablet, whereas the iPad 2 actually came with too low of a color saturation." Follow this link to see how the other tablets fared.

Before I forget, Angry Bird has 15 new levels. When will this war end.

We need the "Cheap" tablet

The Smartphone is a hand held device, the laptop despite its name is best use on a table. In between these two, you have the tablet, which actually is best suited for use on a lap or a table. Phone Arena citing a survey conducted by Retrevo (presumably of non-tablet owners) where 79% said they would buy a tablet if it cost just US$250. At US$300, the number who said they would buy a tablet dropped to 48%. At US$400, the number dropped to just 31%. The Apple iPad 2 starts at US$499. Modern dual core Android tablets start at over US$400, however the Asus Eee Pad Transformer does start at US$399.

This got me thinking about Google's tablet strategy. It Android phones range from low end devices that compete with pretty much any smartphone in the market to devices intended to compete with Apple's iPhone. When Google did not support Android 2.x for the tablet (like Samsung's Galaxy Tab) and came out with Android 3.x Honeycomb for tablets, it made tablets that would compete with the Apple's iPad. 

The Phone Arena survey seems to indicate there is a fairly large market for lower end tablets. Devices with a 1GHz processor of 512MB of RAM (basically cutting edge 2009) technology could be used to build cheap tablets, but without Google support, there will be no developer support either.

While Phone Arena cautions that it only has 1,000 respondents, I do agree with their findings. A tablet will not replace my smartphone nor my personal computer, well at least not until I retire from lawyering, blogging and posting thing like this in Google+. I would not need it to do everything my smarthpone does, and I do not expect it to be as high powered as my personal computer. I am not a hardcore gamer, and 720p is sufficient for me, I don't really need 1080p.     

Looking down the road, in a few months time, Tegra 2 tablets will be fairly inexpensive, and while Android device manufacturers and Apple's iPad will probably move into the quad core arena, the Android tablet may finally take off with what will be by than cheap Honeycomb's. 

This was originally posted in Google+.

Apps for the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator

We wrote an article on the Metro Manila Development Authority's project with channel TV5, the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator. I was thinking it would make be great to have an app for this, so I sent a tweet over to Globelabs (I really must get a Globe line one of these days in thanks, though my home Internet is provided by Globe). Apparently, Giro AppSolutions, Inc. has something in the works.

Metro Traffic for Android

There is apparently already an app available in the market which can give you traffic updates from the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator. The app is called Metro Traffic Live and is available for iOS and Android. You can get Metro Traffic Live from this link.

View per street

The Metro Traffic Live! gives you the "Line View" of Metro Manila Traffic Navigator. It's free, give it a spin. 

Mobile in Manila? The MMDA is your best friend.

The Metro Manila Development Authority recently launched a new service in collaboration with Interaksyon of TV 5 which gives you which gives you comprehensive and accurate updates of the traffic conditions on six major thoroughfares in Metro Manila. You can access the service by pointing your browser to this link: Metro Manila Traffic Navigator.

You can view traffic updates for the six major thoroughfares by the system, or through a list or overlayed on Google Maps. Select the particular road you want to get information on.

The default view, which will take a few minutes to get used to, but once you do you will realize it is an amazingly simple and clever way to get an comprehensive update of the entire traffic situation in Metro Manila. I really just only use the system view. The web page is light, and works well from the browser of a mobile phone. The person who designed it was a genius.

Complementing this service is the MMDA's Twitter service. @MMDAtweets provides you real time information on the traffic, flooding and color coding status in the City. The most amazing part is @MMDAtweets answers your questions and their response time is in my experience under two minutes. Amazing. Two of my service providers (who I pay service fees to monthly) respond in hours, days or never (yup sometimes I never get an answer). This is not the case with @MMDAtweets. All I can say is hats off to you. Best public service and customer service in the web as far as I am concerned.

It is not just online where the MMDA is looking good. The MMDA will be imposing a 60 kilometer per hour speed limit on Macapaga Avenue. In advance of the imposition of the speed limit, they put up clear and legible signs. So many signs that if you do not see at least one of them you must be blind. Well done.

In these times when there are some questions as to whether there has been change with the new government, the MMDA has definitely stepped up. It has always been one of the more prominent agencies, because like what they do or not, the MMDA had a reputation for being a hard worker. The MMDA today is even better. I always had a high regard for this agency, and I am now even more impressed.

All I can say is well done MMDA, and thanks TV5.

MSI X370x - Poor man's MacBook Air?

Not all Fusions are created equally. Despite the technological and price advantage of AMD Fusion platform as against Intel's entry level offerings, we have seen very few offerings in the market. AMD Fusion's are designed for HD video. AMD's C-50 Brazos does not interest all that much, well not anymore anyway (we will get back to that later). The C-50 is has netbook like processing power with good graphics performance. The AMD Fusion E-350 Zacate, is a true laptop chip. The C-50 might have been more interesting, except for the fact that C-50 equipped system do not cost significantly less than E-350 based systems. The price differential makes the C-50 about 5% cheaper, while the Zecate provides almost double the power.
In PassMarks benchmarks, the AMD C-50 scores 453 points, while the AMD E-350 731 points, higher than some of the old Intel Core2 Duo ULV processors. Both the C-50 and E-350 are paired with Radeon HD graphics. The Radeon HD 6250 on the C-50 is clocked at 280MHz. The Radeon HD 6310 on the E-350 is clocked at 500MHz. 

Basically, when buying an AMD Fusion based system, buy one with an E-350.

Options. I have not seen many AMD E-350 systems in the market. HP has the 11.6-inch HP Pavilion DM1-3205AU which at its suggested retail price of Php22,990 is the best choice. There is my personal favorite, the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio VPCYB15AG which provides more graphics punch with 384MB of dedicated memory, but priced at Php29,990 and with 30% battery life, is a lot harder to recommend. We also have a 14-inch E-350 laptops from Asus, eMachines and Lenovo, but those weigh in more than 4.5 pounds and I really see the AMD Fusion as being something more suited to an ultraportable.
Enter 13.4-inch MSI X370x. Weighing in at 3.2 pounds, measuring 0.9 inches at its thickest point and Php21,995 the MSI X370x looks like it might be a poor mans MacBook Air. The 13-inch screen is a good size for many, big enough to be use as a primary computer, with the 3.2 pound weight making it light enough for frequent carry.

With a 1.6GHz dual core processor, Radeon HD 6310 graphics,  2GB of system  RAM, a 320GB hard drive and HDMI out, its specifications are sufficient for the price. The only Achilles heel in the specifications is the four cell battery, which will give you just over three hours of battery life. That would have been fine three years ago, but it is half of what you would expect from a modern laptop. The MSI X370x styling also looks like it was designed three years ago. Still, it is nice to have a 13-inch E-350 as an option.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Google+ app now available in the Android Market for the Philippines

Until now, the Google+ app has only been available in selected countries for Android users. Many of you with Google+ accounts have probably already installed the Google+ app from the APK file (myself included). Today it is available from the Android Market for Philippine users. 

If you already installed the Google+ App, I recommend that you uninstall it, and re-install it from the Android Market so that you will be informed of updates to the app.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maria Aragon featured in the HTC Sensation commercial

Asus Eee PC X101 - Will netbooks be sexy again?

HardwareZonePH has the new Asus Eee PC X101 in their labs (pictures on their Facebook page here). The Asus Eee PC X101 is a 10.1-inch Atom powered netbook. It will be offered with both the Meego Operating System (yep the same one in the new Nokia phone), and there will also be a Windows 7 version.

The processor of the X101 is a single core Atom N435 running at 1.33GHz (some sources say 1.5GHz) and the system will come with 1GB of RAM. Power comes from a 3-cell battery. For storage the Meego version has a 8GB or 16GB SSD hard drive. The Windows version names X101H will have a 250GB hard drive.  

What is so special about this? The X101 is all of 0.69 inches thick. Weight will be just over 2 pounds. That is MacBook Air thin and light. The Meego version will retail for US$199, so it looks like we will see a 10-inch netbook a below Php10,000. Aside from being thin, it will be dirt cheap. The Windows version, the X101H will cost US$310, so it will be priced the same as todays entry level netbooks. With the N435 processor, and 1GB of RAM, I do not think this will run very well with Windows 7. The Meego version looks interesting, the 28Wh battery worrisome, but we will have to wait for the reviews.

Now, if Asus built one of these things in 11.6-inches with a AMD C-50 inside...

Lenovo ThinkPad X220

In the past, the road warriors business ultraportable was a 12.1-inch laptop. With advances in technology, two form factors are now viable, the 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch laptops are now available that weigh in at about 3 pounds or less which battery life of five hours or more.

While I do have a second laptop, that is really an four year old HP Compaq unit which I kept because it really did not make sense to dispose of it, given the low resale values today, which I now use as a test bed for different Linux distributions. Except for this, I really just rely on one machine to be both my everyday carry device and my full time personal computer.

Last time I made this choice, I got a 13.3-inch MacBook Air. When I walk around with it tucked under mt arm in a sleeve, I wonder if I should not have gotten the 11.6-inch Air instead. Not that the 13-inch MacBook is too heavy. At 2.9 pounds, I really would not care if they made it any lighter. It is really light enough. Sometimes its 12.8 inch width just seems a tad bit too long, and the 11.8 inch width of the smaller 11-inch MacBook Air seems like something handier. I know it is not much, but it does make a difference. 

Enter 12.5 inches. Lenovo has used the 12.5-inch form factor in several laptops, none of which really interested me, but now they have brought it to their business ultraportable ThinkPad X220 which is now being sold here for a reasonable Php68,400.
Okay, I now what you are thinking. That costs more than three of the four the new Lion powered MacBook Air's being offered. Before going any further on the hardware, that Php68,400 price comes with Lenovo's three year parts and labor warranty. If you add an AppleCare Protection Plan (add two years to your warranty)to your MacBook Air, it will add Php13,490 to the price of the Air. Sorry for the Apple discussion, but as far as I am concerned, it is the standard by which other ultraportables are measure these days.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X220 comes in at 12 x 9.1 x 1.25 inches, and weighs in 3.6 pounds. While this might sound a bit heavy for a 12.5-inch laptop, the 2.6 pound weight is because the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 is shipped by default with a 9-cell battery which provides you with almost 13 hours of battery life. You can add an optional slice battery which will extend battery life to over 20 hours (Source: See Laptop Mag's Review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 here).

The 12.5-inch screen has the expected 1366 x 768 screen resolution most Windows laptops ship with today. Inside is Intel Core i5-2410M Processor, Intel HD 3000 graphics, 2GB's of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. At this price another 2GB of RAM would have been nice.

Like other ThinkPads, this is made from Magnesium Alloy for the top and bottom covers, roll cage, uses metal for the hinges, and a spill resistant keyboard. When it come to building business laptops, Lenovo still does it best. While Aluminum might look durable, Magnesium Alloy is more likely to survive a drop.  
The installed operating system is Windows 7 Professional, which is an appropriate choice for this kind of laptop, so no problems there. I would not mind seeing one without an OS, to drop down the price and allow me to use a Linux operating system on it. I might loose a lot of the ThinkPad software, though so I would probably stick with Windows 7. Unlike most of the bloat you find in manufacturer installed software, Thinkpads come with very useful software which allow for quick restore in case of a problem and protect and secure your data. 

While the new MacBook Airs are all the rave these days, and I am not about to replace my late 2010 model, if I were in the market for a new ultraportable these days, this is the one I would pick.
The sturdy case, compact size and really long battery life seal the deal. Lenovo calls this the "perfect travel companion", and I agree.

Globe Telecom is offering the BlackBerry PlayBook, bundled with a BlackBerry phone

 Globe Telecom is accepting pre-orders of the BlackBerry PlayBook to postpaid subscribers at this link. In order to avail of a PlayBook you will have to be willing to subscribe to a Php2,499 monthly contract with a two year lock-in. You will also have to fork out some cash depending on the PlayBook and phone combination you want.

There is no indication that BlackBerry services are bundled into the offered plans, which could make all this get rather expensive.  This offer runs until July 29, 2011.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Viber mini review

I have been using Viber the past few days to see if it will work. Voice calls only really work well on WiFi, even if the WiFi is connected only to a 1 megabit per second (Mbps). The hard thing is finding a VOIP app that works with 3G/HSDPA connections in places where the 3G connection is not all that fast.

Testing from Starbucks, Alabang Town Center, I was able to download a 10 Megabyte (MB) file from the Android Market in about three minutes. Since 10 MB's is 80 megabits, we should be able to download a 10 MB  over a 1Mbps  1 minute and 20 seconds. Slowdowns could also be cause by the server where I downloaded the file. But I do have a decent 3G connection, well by Philippine standards anyway (except when I am in Makati, where my Smart 3G connection is sometimes even faster than the available WiFi connections). 

I tried two calls from the same location on 3G, one from Skype and the other from Viber. The phone I was calling was a Apple iPhone 4 with Skype and Viber installed. The Skype call did not go through. The Viber call went through but got cut after 45 seconds or so, with Viber telling my the data connection was poor. So, better than Skype, but we have not yet found the grail. Still, not hard to see why it is the top trending app in the Android market these days.

Battery usage when on standby seems to be minimal, but it does not show up in Battery Use interface, so I am not sure. But I have not noticed any discrenable change in my battery life the past four days. Still it would be nice to have the option to turn it off, or to connect it to WiFi so it only goes on when on WiFi. They really need to pack larger batteries in our Droids so we stop obsessing about things like this.

The nice part is when you install it, it finds all the people in your address book who use Viber. With over 300 contacts, I only have 5 on Viber. Had a friend download it so we could test it, and he appeared in my contact list right away.

All in all, a very nice Android and iPhone App. I would not mind trading in some voice quality for light network requirements. Between network quality, and few users, it might not be appropriate for some developing countries. An off button would be welcome, so it can just be used for scheduled calls on WiFi. Still, messaging through Viber works fine, even voice calls are a no go, so that it is a fair reason to keep it on even when on 3G.

Fonts: Fedora 15 versus Ubuntu 11.04

My biggest grip about Fedora is the fonts. After having tweak them as much as I can following the steps at this link, I wanted to compare how they looked liked against Ubuntu fonts. 

Fedora on top, Ubuntu below. Click to enlarge.

Even without tweaking, Ubuntu's fonts still look better. What do you think?

Apple Laptops are vulnerable to a hack that can kill your batteries

 Forbes reports that hacker and security researcher Andy Miller examined batteries in several Macbooks, Macbook Pros and Macbook Airs and found a disturbing vulnerability. "The batteries’ chips are shipped with default passwords, such that anyone who discovers that password and learns to control the chips’ firmware can potentially hijack them to do anything the hacker wants. That includes permanently ruining batteries at will x x x"

You can read the rest of the Article here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

LibreOffice, a free and Open Source productivity suite

Many people equate taking the plunge into Open Source as going to Linux and moving to a new operating system. With Microsoft Offering lower and lower prices on Windows software these days, mainly in developing countries, the incentive to make this move is getting less and less. 

But you may want to keep Windows and try an Open Source Office Suite,  LibreOffice.

LibreOffice. LibreOffice is a free software office suite developed by The Document Foundation as a fork of originated as StarOffice, an office suite developed by StarDivision and acquired by Sun Microsystems in August 1999. The source code of the suite was released in July 2000 with the aim of reducing the dominant market share of Microsoft Office by providing a free and open alternative. was an open-source version of the StarOffice suite, with development sponsored primarily by Sun Microsystems. Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are compatible with other major office suites, including Microsoft Office, and available Linux, Mindows and the Mac operating systems.

LibreOffice is a complete productivity suite, which you can use to prepare documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The LibreOffice word processor is called Wirter, and the learning curve from other word processors is fairly easy. There is a bit more of a learning curve for the spreadsheet application called Calc, but a few days and you should feel right at home. LibreOffice also has a presentation creator. I do not use presentation creation applications so I cannot comment on that. The most confusing part for a new user will be that it saves in its own *.odt (documents) and *.ods (spreadsheets) format than the more common *.doc/*.rtf or *.xls format.

But this can be changed easily by going to Tools ---> Options ---> Load/Save ---> General.

There is one big advantage to using LibreOffice. I have been using OpenOffice and LibreOffice for collectively nine years now. Since it is compatible with Linux, Windows and the Mac operating systems, I can easily move from one operating system to another. By moving to applications which are compatible across platforms, I can easily move across platforms. That is save money is a bonus.

My desktop replacement laptop runs Fedora Linux, and my everyday carry machine is a MacBook Air. When it is time to replace the MacBook I will probably try a Windows laptop again. In my office we use a combination of Linux, Windows and Mac powered machines. It gets to the point that you are OS neutral. Absence of dependence on any platform gives me a sense of freedom which I like.

It is always good to have choices. LibreOffice is a viable alternative to proprietary Office Suites. 

BlackBerry PlayBook Pricing

Pinoy Tech Blog has the official pricing of the BlackBerry PlayBook when it is released in the Philippines on August 6.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is a 7-inch WiFi tablet running RIM's lastest operating system, QNX.

The suggested retail price for the BlackBerry PlayBook are as follows:
  •     16GB at P23,990
  •     32GB at P28,990
  •     64GB at P33,990
Basically, the BlackBerry will match the pricing of the iPad 2.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Smart Always On Data Plans

Smart Communications has announced a new set of data plans. In addition to the original time based per minutes plans, and Unlimited Data Plans, Smart now offers it "Always On" plans.

I noticed that Smart highlights it Php300 plan. This is a good choice I think. This will be enough to get your email, use your instant messengers and social networking phone apps. 

There is one worrisome part, "once ALWAYS ON plans is fully consumed, standard P10/30 minute charging will apply". If you get this plan, it would be advisable to check your balance on a regular basis

If you get ALWAYS ON 300, and exceed the 250MB cap for 24 hours, that will cost you Php480 for one day. Hopefully, they send you an SMS when you exceed your cap. Will try to find out about it.

13-inch Apple MacBook Pro versus Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B

If you are looking for a well built thin-and light laptop these days, you might want to consider one of these two. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro or the Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B.

MacBook Pro

Price. Okay, lest start at price. We are looking at the higher end of the thin-and-light spectrum here. Both these laptops will set you back around 60K. The Apple MacBook Pro will set you back Php61,990 while the Sony Vaio VPCSB16FG/B will set you back Php59,990.

Sony Vaio SB
General specifications. Both these laptops come with very similar specifications. Both run on Intel Core i5-2410M processors, come with 4GB or RAM and 320GB hard drives. Sony promises six hours of battery life, while Apple promises seven.In the real world it is probably more 5.5 hours versus 7, unless you add Adobe Flash support to you web browser of the MacBook in which case battery life should be even. The MacBook has a 13.3-inch 1280 x 800 pixel resolution screen, while the Vaio has a 13.3-inch 1366 x 768 screen. Again not much there. They both come with back-lit keyboards...

So what distinguishes the two?

1) Operation System. The MacBook runs on MacOS and  the Vaio runs on Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit). If you prefer Windows over MacOS, than it is an easy choice. Get the Vaio. If you prefer MacOS, than it is an easy choice too. If you are open to both, read on.

2) Graphics. The MacBook runs on Intel's HD 3000 graphics with shared memory. The Vaio has an Intel HD 3000 graphic processor and an AMD Radeon HD 6470M and allows you to select which card to use depending on what you are doing. It also has 512MB of dedicated memory for the video.
From a review by PC World Australia The AMD Radeon HD 6470M scores 5185 points in 3DMark06, while the Intel does 3760 in the same test. The Radeon adapter also gives you DirectX 11 support. 

I know you have all seen tests with Intel HD 3000 graphics with higher benchmarks. It depends on the processor. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 speeds depends  on the CPU. A i7-2720QM CPU clocks the graphics chip at 650 up to 1300 MHz. In a Core i5-2410M CPU clocks the graphics chip at 650 up to 1100 MHz

3) High speed data transfer. The Vaio uses the USB 3.0 (5Mbps) while the MacBook uses the Thunderbolt Port (10Mbps). The problem is there really are not many Thunderbolt peripherals available. It is not hard to find a USB 3.0 external hard drive these days.

4) Weight. As thin as they are, Apple's MacBook Pro's are not particularly light. Apple's MacBook Pro's come in a 4.5 pounds. Considering the 13-inch MacBook Air weighs 3-pounds, I do not know why the MacBook Pro weighs so much. 

The Vaio? Well it tips the scales at 3.79 pounds. This actually makes is a ultraportable, rather than a thin-and-light.

So which is the better choice? In terms of operating systems, I am OS neutral. I use Windows and MacOS and am happy with both. These article is being written on a laptop running Fedora 15 Linux. 

The Apple will give you better battery life, the Vaio will give you the option to run faster graphics and and weighs 0.8 pounds less. Right now I prefer USB 3.0 versus Thunderbolt, but it is too early to tell which of these two becomes standard. They are both good choice, but I would go with the Vaio. Apple has to trim a few ounces from its MacBook.

Caveat: My main laptop is a 13-inch MacBook Air, which weighs 2.9 pounds. I carry my laptop a lot so weight is important to me, and I do tend to get very biased for lighter devices.

LG Optimus Pad

LG Optimus Pad. LG has announced the upcoming release of the LG Optimus Pad in the Philippines, and they are giving a Php15K "early bird" discount to those who reserve one now. The catch is the suggested retail price is Php50,000, so with the discount it still costs Php34,990.

What makes the LG Optimus Pad special? It has the same specifications as your typical Android Honeycomb tablet, except that it has a smaller 8.9-inch (720 x 1280) screen instead of the more common 10.1-inch (800 x 1280) screen. The big feature it has is it can capture 720p 3D video, which you can watch on 3D in your 3D TV. Basically, it is a tablet with a 3D video recorder. In fairness, at Php34,990 it does come with 32GB of internal storage, but at its current price, it cost more than an Apple iPad 2 with 64GB of storage.

Unless you really want a 3D video recorder on your tablet, there really is no good reason to buy this one. As for the promo price, 50K was the correct price when it was released in May 2011. Now, it is being offered at a discount abroad, so the 15K early bird promo discount seems to reflect, its current price abroad.

If you want to pre-order one, here is the link to LG Promo page.

Around the web: Android apps & and some tablet market share news

Viber. GSM Arena has a review of the new for Android (been on iOS since late last year) VOIP (voice calls over WiFi or 3G) and messaging app Viber. You can download free (it is also add free) from the Android Market.
Been using it for two days now. My biggest gripe is there is no way to log out, which many will want to do if they plan to use it WiFi only. It needs a fairly strong 3G signal for voice calls, so in the Philippines it is pretty much a WiFi only app. The good thing is that battery life use seems negligible.

Angry Bird Rio Update. Fifteen new levels to satisfy the needs of Angry Bird addicts :)

Android Tablet Market Share. Phone Arena reports that Android now has 30% of the tablet market share. It is just a guess, but I am betting most of those are mostly cheaper Android 2.2/2.3 tablets. Google should have really given more support to Android 2x as a tablet OS.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 MacBook Airs are out!

MacBook has released the new Sandy Bridge MacBook Air laptops, with the new MacOSX 10.7 Lion installed.

Instead of the Core2 Duo Processors in last years models you get 1.6GHz Core i5 processor. You also get back-lit keyboards and the high speed data transfer Thunderbolt Port.  The entry level 11-inch model comes in Php2,000 less than last years model, at Php49,900. Like last years model, internal storage is still 64GB of flash storage and it still has 2GB or RAM.

The higher end 11-inch MacBook Air has double the RAM and storage for Php59,900. 

The entry level 13-inch MacBook Air is priced at Php65,990, which is Php2,000 more than last years model. It has a faster 1.7GHz processor and has 4GB or RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The higher end 13-inch MacBook Air ups internal storage to 256GB at a price of Php79,900, which is Php4,000 less than last years model. 

The Apple Store is down...

... so we are expecting something new to be released soon. Pretty sure we will be seeing the new MacBook Air's in a few hours, maybe a MacBook too.

Viber VOIP app is now available for Android

Viber is an iPhone and Android application that lets you make free phone calls and send free text messages to other users that have Viber installed. When you use Viber, your phone calls to any other Viber user are free, and the sound quality is much better than a regular call. You can call any Viber user, anywhere in the world, for free and now also text them.

Viber uses your phone number as your “identity” and lets you make free Viber phone calls to any of your friends that have Viber – using their phone number. When I installed Viber in my phone, it identified all my contacts who have Vider installed too. 
It took me about two minutes from the time I made a clicked install on the Android market to make my first phone call.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Lenovo on has announced that it will be releasing a ThinkPad Tablet, geared for  businesses, which runs on Google's Android 3.1.

The tablet has the specifications of your typical Google Honecomb tablet with 10.1-inch (1280 x 800) screen, Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor and 16GB of internal storage. It will have about provides eight hours of battery life. The ThinkPad Tablet has a 2.0-megapixel camera in front and 5.0-megapixel camera at the back. For connectivity, the tablets has a mini-HDMI, a full sized USB and mini USB slots, and SIM card ports and an SD card reader. It weighs 1.65 pounds.

The tablet is expected to be available by next month, although I do not know when it will be available in the Philippines. The price for the 16GB Wi-Fi model is priced at US$499, same price as the iPad 2.

What makes it interesting is that for an additional $30 users can buy a model with a digitizer pen. Add another US$99 and you can get a keyboad dock for it like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer.

Who knows, a tablet might replace my laptop after all.

Sending files to Fedora 15 via Bluetooth

After pairing my mobile phone to my laptop with Fedora 15 installed, I was able to send filed from my laptop to my phone, but not from my phone to my laptop. By default Fedora 15 is not configured to allow files to be sent to it via Bluetooth and this has to be enabled. After searching in the control panel (System Settings in Fedora) I could not find the where to enable the setting which will allow Fedora 15 to receive filed over bluetooth.

Apparently this utility is not included in the installed I downloaded (I got the Live USB version). To install the Gnome User Share utility, fire up the Terminal and type in "su" without the quotation marks to give you root access. Than type your password.

After your password  is accepted type the following command and press enter:

yum install gnome-user-share

After installing the Gnome User Share utility launch the from the Applications menu.

This will bring up bring up the Personal File Sharing Preferences panel, and you simply have to click the Receive Files in Downloads Folder over Bluetooth.

You will now be able to send files via Bluetooth to your Fedora 15 computer.

Asus Eee Pad Tansformer

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer, a Google Android Honeycomb tablet which has the reference sized 10.1-inch screen with 1280 x 800 resolution, dual core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 AP20H processor and 1GB of RAM. These are the same specifications you will find on Acer's Iconia A500 and Motorola's Xoom tablets. What distinguishes the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is that it has a removable dock which when attached effectively converts the tablet into a laptop. 

The model released here has 16GB of internal storage. A microSD slot will allow you to add up to a 32GB microSD Card. The tablet also has a USB 2.0 port.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is priced at Php22,995, and Php29,996 with the dock, which is a bit higher than we expected. Internationally, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is priced at US$399, and the dock at US$149. This should make the Asus Eee Pad Transformer about Php4,000 cheaper than Apple's iPad 2 which is priced at US$499. Aty the current pricing it is just Php1,000 cheaper than the Apple iPad 2. Despite the higher than expected price, it is good choice since the dock really expands the functionality of this tablet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fixing the Dropbox start-up problem with Fedora Linux

I noticed Fedora 15 takes a longer time to connect to the internet than my last Linux operating system, Ubuntu. This causes problems for Dropbox when it is set to automatically start with your computer. When Dropbox starts up and it cannot find an internet connection, it will get stuck at connecting and won't sync your Dropbox folder contents.

The simple solution is to delay Dropbox from starting start up. Okay. First we have to stop Dropbox from starting up. Bring up the Dropbox preferences and uncheck "Start Dropbox at system startup".

Click picture for a larger image
Next we have to bring up the start-up manager. Click Alt + F2 to bring up the  run command dialogue and type in "gnome-session-properties", and click enter.

From the "Startup Application Preferences" GUI  select "Add".

In the field name, type in "Dropbox" and in the field command type in the following command:

bash -c "sleep 30s && dropbox start -i"

Don't forget to click Save.

This will delay Dropbox from starting up for 30 seconds which should allow your computer to connect to he internet before Dropbox launches. If you need a longer period of delay you can use the following commands:

45 seconds: bash -c "sleep 45s && dropbox start -i"
1 minute:  bash -c "sleep 1m && dropbox start -i"

Reboot. Dropbox should now be working fine.

Improving fonts in Fedora 15

Update: This procudere works with Fedora 16 too.

Fedora 15, by default ships with very thing fonts, which I find strain my eyes to much. Some of the fonts, like in the Application menu are small, even on my 14-inch laptop. Fixing this is not too difficult.

If you don't see a problem with your fonts in Fedora 15 you can stop here :)

Gnome Tweak Tool. I recommend that you download the Gnome Tweak Tool. Fire up the terminal, log in to root (Command: su) and type in the following command, and click enter:

yum install gnome-tweak-tool

This will allow you to change fonts, adjust font sizes, scale fonts, and tweak hinting and anti-aliasing. It will also allow to you customize other features on the Gnome 3 desktop.

Depending on you screen and preferences this might be enough. In the end, I really wanted better fonts. 

My favorite are Microsoft TrueType fonts which are free to download off the Microsoft website. There is no Fedora Linux package for download, but a file which downloads the fonts and packages them into an RPM was created. To install  Microsoft TrueType fonts you have to run a series of commands in the terminal:

su -c "yum install rpm-build ttmkfdir cabextract"
mkdir -p ~/rpmbuild/SOURCES
wget -O ~/rpmbuild/SOURCES/09-msttcorefonts.conf
rpmbuild -bb msttcore-fonts-2.0-4.spec

su -mc "rpm -Uvh ~/rpmbuild/RPMS/noarch/msttcore-fonts-2.0-4.noarch.rpm"

su -c "ttmkfdir /usr/share/fonts/msttcore"

Depending on your "ideology", you may or may not want to do this. You can find other font options at FedoraUnity.

I really like Microsoft's TrueType fonts, since it makes your Linux box render fonts similarly to a Windows machine and a Mac. Since, I am not abandoning Microsoft Windows, and  also use a MacBook, having familiar looking fonts is easy on the eyes.

Simple guide to updating and installing software in Fedora 15

Caveat. I am by no means a Linux Expert. I used Mandrake and Red Hat Linux for three years almost seven years ago on my desktop, and only got back around to using it again in December of 2010. Last December I installed Ubuntu 10.10, and Ubuntu is a really nice distribution to use, especially if you are new to Linux. Install and use. Nothing much else to do. I never even thought of writing a guide, there is really no need to.

Last week I decided to try out Fedora 15, mainly because I was interested in the new Gnome 3 graphical user interface. Getting Fedora installed and updated is a little bit more tricky. Since Fedora is a test bed for cutting edge Linux technology this is to be expected. But actually, if you know what to do, it is pretty easy.

Updating the Operating System. Fedora 15 has a graphical user interface for updates. Just click Software Updates in Applications, and install the updates you want to install.

There is a bug, which is a known issue. If you got Fedora 15 at release and updated on a regular basis it should not affect you. If you are installing it now, there seems to be some conflict with some earlier and later updates. There is a very simple work around. Update via command line. It's not as hard as it sounds.

In Application bring up the Terminal and type in the command "su" without the quotation marks and type in your password.

After that, type in the following command "yum update" again without the quotation marks, and press Enter. Fedora 15 will install all available updates. It is that simple.

Updating Firefox. Fedora 15 will come with Firefox 4. There are plenty of ways to update to Firefox 5, but since you got used to using the terminal already, this is really the easiest way to do things. So after updating Fedora just type in this code (if you closed the previous terminal you will need to type "su" and your password again) and press enter:

yum install firefox

Adding productivity software. The great thing about Linux is the amount of free software. You can install LibreOffice, which is office suite compatible with Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets and presentations in the same way by entering the following command:

yum groupinstall "Office/Productivity"

You can also add Gimp, which is a Photo Editing software similar to Photoshop (although the basic Fedora install already comes with a simple photoeditor for cropping, rotating and enhancing pictures):

yum install gimp

Adobe Flash, Codecs, Google Dropbox and more. You can add a application called Autoplus+ which will make it easy to install Flash, Codes and some very useful software. In the terminal type the following code:

su -c 'yum -y --nogpgcheck install'
Launch Autoplus+ from the applications and install what you want with a mouse click. I have wrote about Autoplus+ a few days ago at this link.

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