Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cool Web site of the Month

Every month I plan on showing off one of the web sites I found most interesting. I actually spend far too much time everyday reading blogs on many different topics.   Most of my favorites will be tech sites, but they can be any kind of site.  This month's site is This is a fairly well known site, which is why I chose it first. Most of the blog posts are about up and coming tech news and gadgets.  I have been reading this site regularly for about a year now and the content is good and original.  Typically, they post two to three articles per day. They do have a forum, but I have never gone to it. The quality of writing is very good, but is full of speculation, which is what you would expect from a web site named "semi accurate." The writing style is very technical, which is interesting for people that follow the industry, but may not seem interesting to the every day Joe.   For anyone that is interested in a nice tech site with interesting articles, I would recommend this site to you. 

Gadgets in My Profession: Speech Pathology

As a contributor to this blog, I hate to admit this, but I am not huge on "gadgets" and technological "toys." I have a simple slider phone which I use for calling, texting, and my alarm clock. Okay, occasionally I use the calculator, as well. I didn't own an iPod until Patrick got his Droid X and then let me have his old iPod Touch. Nothing new or exciting. I do, however, work with unique technology. I am working on my Master's Degree in Speech Pathology, and therefore, it is/will be my job to help people communicate. Often, this involves the use of gadgets that many people do not even realize exist.

One of the first things that a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) will do when they meet a client is a hearing screening. If someone is having trouble expressing themselves, it is possible that they are just not hearing what they need to be hearing in order to communicate effectively. One of the gadgets we use to screen for hearing loss is called the Audiometer. Whether you know it or not, you have probably all seen one, if only for a few moments. Remember when you were in grade school and you all had to have your hearing tested? You had to raise your hand when you heard the tone? Either an SLP or an audiologist (whichever was available at your school) used an audiometer to do that. It has the red and blue headphones (red = right ear, blue = left ear) and a few knobs that adjust the frequency (pitch) and intensity (volume). When screening hearing, you turn the audiometer on and set the intensity to 20dB. You screen one ear at a time at frequencies (500Hz = optional) 1000Hz, 2000Hz, 4000Hz. These frequencies are chosen because they are important frequencies at which people's speech is perceived.

If you don't hear one of the tones, you fail the screening, but don't freak out. It is really common that people miss a tone, especially if they have had a cold recently, an ear infection, or a lot of wax build up. (Clean your ears, people!) If this happens, the SLP will test again in a few weeks. If you continue to fail the screening, you will probably be referred to an audiologist for a full hearing evaluation to determine what is going on.

The first picture is closer to what I have used in classes, but technology is progressing so quickly, that now the audiometers come as small as iPods. Pretty neat!

Life In The "i" World

So what is the "i" world. Well, ever since the so popular iPod, MP3 players and even phones have competed so much as to give users the capability of media at the control of the user's hands. The iPod phenomenon has led to a growing number of "i" devices making consumers feel as if they were in control of the media they use on their devices. The iHome, a company solely reliant on the so popular iPod, has marketed their product as a number one must have application and accessory to every user's iPod. Products such as alarm clocks sync with the iHome application on the iPod to provide users the convenience of a personalized alarm clock with many features not available by its competitors. Are these phenomenons really necessary for today's generations or is it time that we allow ourselves to feel as if we can control the daily actions of our lives? We should always control our lives, but when is it time to say no to these personal "i" devices when it gets in the way of our daily activities and responsibilities. I, as an iPod Touch user, understand the capabilities that the iPod has in which I control the media I enjoy as well as use the iPod as a tool for my life's successes. Have I lost touch in the growth of my generation's connections with technology or has my generation lost control in itself while technology breaks through the barriers of responsibility and control? Come to follow this post are the advantages and disadvantages of the iPod and I will take a look as to what the future may look forward to as we advance into an age of total technology user control.

My favorite mobile app February

I have an iPod Touch which I bought a few years back. I actually per-ordered it from Apple when it was first announced.  One thing that took what seemed like forever to come to iPhone and iPod Touch was the app store. If you remember the first generation iPhone and iPod Touch did not have an app store until the iPhone 3G (second generation) was released a year later.  When the app store started heating up, one of the many apps I really liked was called Pandora. The Pandora app lets you listen music stations that you set up on the computer. You can select the station and the songs streamed to your device.  Allow me explain how Pandora works today because it has changed a bit since the first apps started showing up. You can either go to the Pandora web site or install the app on you mobile device. First you need to sign up which is easy, then you punch in a band, song, album, or genre and start listening. You can have as wide a selection of music as you wish by adding bands or albums to existing "stations". Or you can have multiple stations for each mood.  After you make a station it starts playing the band or album selected, then it moves on to other bands that have similar sounds. If you like the band you can thumbs up, to hear more of their music.  Also if you dislike them the can thumbs them down which will keep Pandora from playing them for a while.  I listened to Pandora when I could on my iPod Touch, but because I was limited to WiFi only, I never saw the full potential of the product.  Over the summer I got a Droid X which requires a data plan. Of course the first app installed was Pandora for Android.  When one has a service like Pandora, having a music library becomes less important. My phone has 24 GB of space of which only 300 megabytes are currently used for music.  I actually do have decent sized music collection which I have been collecting since high school. I almost never fire up the playlist anymore because Pandora is so great. If you are interested in trying out the service click here, or download the app from the Android market/app store.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pagers and Beepers

Now, I am 23 years old, but I remember back to the day when beepers/pagers were the gadgets to have. If you had a company pager, it meant you had some power at your company. People wanted to get a hold of them.  My own father had a pager back in the day. Thinking back, I believe the model I have shown above is the kind my father had.  I also remember when he traded up to a cell phone.  When I was in grade school, kids did not yet have cell phones (they were too darned expensive), but lots of adults had pagers, and I remember kids comparing one parent to another using the basis of whether or not they had a beeper.  When I was a very young kid, I could count all the tech gadgets I was exposed to on one hand. There was the desktop computer, the game console, the telephone, and the beeper.  As of right now the only industry that still uses beepers is the health care industry (doctors and nurses).
I had no idea how beepers worked, which added to their coolness. I recently read up on how they work, and some of this might be a bit technical for some of my readers, but I will do my best to explain it in nontechnical terms.  Most pagers are one way systems, meaning they can only accept information; not send it. They, for the most part, ran on the 900 MHz band spectrum. Lots of other gadgets also use that band, including older cordless house phones. Some early pagers could only display digits, so the message was just the number of the caller.  Most newer pagers could do both numbers and short strings of text.  When a person wanted to send a message to the pager, they could use a computer terminal to send the message.  You could dial a number and then record a message which is transcribed to a message for the pager. 
If anyone has comments about their memories of pagers, please post them below.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cool phone of the month Feb.

LG Optimus 2X

I, personally, love to shop for smart phones like women love to shop for clothing.  Every time a new phone comes out, I spend a few minutes checking out the specs, pics,and reviews wishing for that phone. Then, I realize it's on AT&T, and laugh a little inside that those people have a great phone with no coverage.  Most of the cool phones these days are made with a mobile operating system in mind.  The most popular cell phone OS's are BlackBerry, Android, MeeGo (more in Europe than in the US),  iOS, and windows Phone 7.  This month's top phone is the LG Optimus 2X. The 2X at the end means it has dual core processor (oh fancy), which makes it one of the first phones to support that feature.  The phone can be purchased on the web unlocked (which means it can be used by a variety of carriers), if your willing to spend a pretty penny for a pretty phone. While doing some research, it was unclear which carrier was going to put the phone on contract.  Most likely, it will be T-mobile or AT&T.   The phone comes equipped with the now standard 480 by 800 screen resolution. Most phones use this size screen. In conclusion, this is a cool phone right now. It is the first of its kind, but there will be other phones with similar features next month.   If I was up for a new phone today, and I had lots of money to blow, this would be the phone I would reach for.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Media and Gadgets: Michelle's Take

I find it interesting how technology changes the way we live on a daily basis and how we interact with those around us. For example, when I was in grade school, everyone had a land-line phone. I used to have the phone numbers of all of my close friends memorized (and can still rattle them off to this day). Now, however, I couldn't even tell you my boyfriend's cell phone number. Although his number is the one most frequently dialed, there is no need to have the numbers memorized because of the programming techniques every basic cell phone has now. In fact, my dad even cut service to our land-line phone because there is just no need for it. We all have our own cell phones and it was just another bill.

Now, I don't feel that there is necessarily anything wrong with that, although it can be a nightmare if something happens to our phone and we lose ALL our contacts...that has happened to me on more than one occasion! But it can be a bit sad that our technology has begun to cripple our socialization skills. Patrick mentioned how we hardly ever call friends just to chat. Instead, we text or Facebook each other. My experience has even gone a step further. I once had a boss whose primary form of communication was texting! This went a little too far for me. To each his own.

That said, I do see the extraordinary benefits of social media and the progression of technology. And that is another post for another day.

Social Media and Gadgets: Patrick's Take

How many people out there think that they could live a week without their cell phone? Most people would say they could not. I ask the question, why not? When was the last time you called someone that was not a family member, and had a real conversation with them? How many times do you check your email on your phone to find something was so important that it had to be dealt with right then and there. I get email on my cell phone, and I love it, but I almost never do anything with it from my phone. I wait until I can get to a computer to reply. For most people, the reason they could not live without their cell phones is social interaction. For people with feature phones (Flip or candy bar phones), the reason is that they want to text worthless stuff to each other. For smart phone users, it is surfing Facebook or still texting worthless junk to friends. I would love to know how many people go to Facebook on their phones, even if it's to check updates and not really do anything with content. Let's try an experiment, shall we? Every time you get a text, instead of texting back, try to call the person. After a while, you will start to understand what social media means to you.

I love Firefox


I love Firefox, so much.  If I meet someone who uses Internet Explorer, I make it a point of informing them that there are other web browsers out there, many of which are faster and more secure.  I made my mother switch to Firefox from an AOL browser (by not reinstalling the AOL browser when I reloaded her computer).  And now the greatest thing ever in the history of gadgets is upon us: we have Firefox on Android (it has also been on some Nokia platforms for some time).  Now, I can take my fanboy love with me wherever I go. The Mozilla software is clearly not as polished as the desktop version of Firefox, but we need to give it some more time.  EVERYONE WITH AN ANDROID PHONE GO GET FIREFOX MOBILE.  You may find it's still not up to the speed of the regular browser, but it already works pretty darn well.  I, personally, have a Droid X, which is a pretty fast phone so you may have different results. But for me, it's only a small delay in web site load times. 
Now when I get into an argument with an iPhone user about phone features (nerd), they have to come back to "I've got Firefox with flash on my phone, what kind of browser do you use?" My phone's browser supports more web standards, more add-ons, is more popular, and looks better than yours. It's okay iPhone users, I am sure Apple knows what you want and don't want (like flash).

I added Ads

For most of you, this is most likely your first time reading this blog.  I just turned on ads, which I hate on most other web sites, and in fact block with ad blocking software.  I have a degree in Business Administration with a minor in marketing. So, you could imagine that having the feature available and not turning it on to see what it would do was driving me nuts.  So, if you would like to block ads (not just the ones on this site).
Step One. Install and  Use Firefox, you can find that here
Step Two. Go to this web site or click here
Step Three. Click on the instillation tab at the top of the site
Step Four. Click on install ad block plus which should be in the middle of the screen.
Step Five. Follow the install instruction

This Add-on is very easy to install and works very well.  I would love to hear from people if these instructions made sense and weather they think the current ads are too much.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Im looking at getting a tablet

Has anybody been looking for tablets lately? I am a graduate student, and therefore, have lots of required reading.  The upside (if there is an upside) is that most of the books are every day books; not text books.  This means that most of them are available on Amazon in eBook form.  So, starting this semester, I have been  purchasing and reading the eBooks on my laptop (eBooks are 20-50% cheaper than the hard copy version).  One might ask, "Why don't you just buy the hard copy for more and then resell it?" Well, I don't like reading very much, I don't like walking to three different book stores to find the book, and I do not like finding out at the end of the semester that they (the book stores) don't want to buy the book back from me.  Some people don't like reading off a computer screen, but I actually prefer it to a regular book (nerd).  So, I'm going to get an eBook reader. Well, not really an eBook reader. I want an Android tablet that also works well for reading eBooks.  After doing some research, I determined that I wanted a tablet with a ten inch screen and at least a netbook resolution (1024x600).  This size allows for a full page of text that is easy to read.  And, as I said before, I am a college student, so it needs to be cheap. No iPad, or Moto Xoom, or Galaxy Tab for me. I have narrowed down my search to two different tablets; the Archos 101 and ViewSonic G-tablet. Both tablets have to be modified to install Kindle software, which I'm okay with. Most likely, I will get the G-tablet because it comes with real buttons verses the Archos's soft buttons.  As of today, I have purchased four eBooks and four hard copy books for my classes. I would like to demonstrate the difference. 

A ViewSonic G-tablet side on:

My four regular books: