Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Ask me Techie Questions. Get real answers. No strings attached.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

People know me as a super-cybergeek.  Not only do I work in the digital world professionally, I even immerse myself in it in my free time.  I love staying up on trends, listening to geek podcasts, and lull myself to sleep reading geek blogs on my iPhone.

Nauseating? Maybe.   But, as Popeye the sailor used to say, “I yam what I yam.”

Because of this reputation, I am a recipient of many geeked-out questions like:

  • What computer should I buy?
  • What is the difference between Adwords and Adsense?
  • Why isn’t the Android phone’s browser called “Chrome” if it’s made by Google?

You get the picture…

And you would think I’d hate it, but I actually love it.  I have a passion for helping people.  And, to help with tech questions is just nirvana for me.

So, here’s my offer: Ask me a question about any techie-thing you can imagine and I’ll give you a well-informed answer.  No strings attached.

Do you have a burning tech question?  Are you in need of a good, honest, answer?  Then, fill out this form and ask me.

Cost to you? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  The only “catch” is that I will share the answer on this blog so that others may learn from it.

Your privacy is critical, so if you don’t want you name shared, I won’t.  And I will never, ever, share your email with anyone for anything.

So, how do you ask your question?  Click on the ridiculously big button below.

Help Me Josh Zapin Button

My goal is to answer at least one question a week.

Thanks for satiating my habit.

R.I.P. Lala. We loved you while you lasted.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Lala, the play-any-track-once-for-free-then-pay-$0.10-per-track music service is no gone as of today (6/1/10).

RIP Lala.comFrom my perspective it was easily the best online music site.  I love exploring new music, but I don’t want to commit until I absolutely love the track.  Because I could listen to any track once 100% free, Lala introduced me to new bands and genres of music.  While it was only a streaming music service (i.e. you had to be online to listen), it was sonically outstanding, organized well, and very fast.

One of the best features was its Music Mover that allowed you to upload, literally, you existing collection and play it online.  This, alone, was huge.  No longer did I not need to drag my entire collection with me, I could access it anywhere: home, work, office, friend’s computer, etc.

There was even an iPhone app/service in the works.  With such an app, it meant that you never had to load your music onto your device.  As long as you had Internet access, you could listen to your entire collection.  Incredible, industry shaking stuff.

To be fair, Lala was struggling – they were losing money perhaps showing that the model wasn’t working.  They were purchased Apple a few months ago.  While it was sad, it has been expected that Apple will incorporate Lala’s technology into itunes somehow.  We’ll just have to see.

Still, R.I.P. Lala.  We loved you while you lasted.

SwitchEasy Cases: A Positive Review

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I recently had a problem with my SwtichEasy Colors iPhone case.  It ripped:
Josh Zapin's SwitchEasy Colors  case Ripped

I was bummed especially since I really like the product:

  • It’s very slim
  • Protects well (especially with the jelly button)
  • Has lots of extras like covers for all the holes and screen protectors

I emailed the company, and through a relatively straightforward process, they sent me a new SwitchEasy Colors case completely free of charge!

You hear about such terrible customer service these days, that it’s nice to hear about good ones.

I will definitely buy other SwitchEasy products in the future. 3.0: Start a Conversation with Me

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I just updated

Cleaner Design

With the help of the Mystique WordPress theme, I have significantly upgraded the look of my website.  The site now boasts:

  • Improved Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • A cleaner, more vibrant layout
  • Mobile device compatibility (check me out on an iPhone)
  • Linkages to twitter with my latest tweets up front and center.
  • Embedded ways to share content with popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In.

New Logo: Conversation Bubbles

You’ll also notice a new logo too:

That are they?  They are talk bubbles or, what I’d rather call them, conversation bubbles.  While a blog is usually a collection of its owner’s thoughts, my intention is to make a collection of conversations.  I don’t want it to be me spewing stuff, but a multi-diectional way communication between me, you and everyone else.

In the coming days, I will be putting in some new functionality to enable the conversation.

So, let me know what you think.  Post a comment below, retweet it, post it to facebook.

Buying a Kitchen Computer, Part 2: Form Factor

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

In my previous post, I made the case why we (and probably a lot of other people) need a kitchen computer.  I also defined some broad strokes of what we need out of the kitchen computer.

Now, it’s time to figure out a little more detail on which type of computer would best fill our needs.

Why is Form factor so important?

In contrast to other computers, a Kitchen Computer must have exceptional form factor.   Form factor is defined as how the computer is designed to work in the environment it is placed.   With pots, pans, and small electric appliances cluttering a kitchen, where a kitchen computer lives is even more important than how it works.  As I described in my last post, we need this kitchen computer to do some really basic stuff:

  • Skype-ing (it’s a telephone for us)
  • Managing and view photos
  • Listening to Music
  • Web surfing including recipes/cooking assistance

In other words, the kitchen computer an extension of our life and needs to be very accessible.   We only need it for small things, but lots of small things.  So, where it is located is more important than how well it does the things we need.

Where is our Kitchen Computer going to “live?”

If the kitchen computer is going to be central to our lives, it needs to be at the center of the kitchens.

In our case, the kitchen computer will need to live in the center “bar” island.  Not only is it physically in the center of the room, it gives the person a bird’s eye view of the space.  While at the island, you can cook while also glancing over your shoulder to watch the kids play with their toys.  Similarly, when we entertain, there is a natural gravitational pull towards the bar.  It is the place where people can sit and hang on the barstools, eat some food, have a few drinks.  It is only natural that a computer also live in that space.

While the bar is the natural place for the kitchen computer,  it isn’t the natural habitat for it for the following reasons:

  • There isn’t a lot of space.  The bar, although long, is shallow: it only has about 18 inches of countertop depth.
  • It is right near the oven/stove/hood and has a high likelihood of being soiled.  Spills, splatters, and other mishaps must expected.

No IT professional in the world would suggest putting a computer even remotely close to that space let alone make it a permanent fixture.  But, it is the space that it should live.

Now that we’ve established where it is going to live, it’s now time to figure out what type of computer best fits the space.

Form Factor Ratings: Desktops vs. Laptops vs. All-In-Ones

In the world of computers, form factor can be broken down into three distinct types:

  • Laptops – These are computers where the screen, keyboard, CPU (the computer itself), pointing device are all contained in one unit.  These also tend to be small and light and are extremely portable.
  • Desktops – The most “traditional” computers where screen, keyboard, CPU, and pointing device are separate.
  • “All-in-Ones” – Somewhat new to the computer world, these are computers where most of the “guts” of the computer (i.e. screen and the CPU) are contained in one unit while the input devices (i.e. keyboard and mouse) are separate.  The advantage is that they are typically larger and more powerful than a laptop, but don’t have the same clutter as desktop.

Let’s see how the three types of computers compare to each other in achieving good form as a Kitchen Computer:

Desktops Laptops All-In-Ones
Cables/Clutter Poor Excellent Very Good
Performance Excellent Good Very Good
Separation of
Excellent Poor Good
Touchscreen Poor Fair Good
Cost Excellent Very Good Fair

The following details how we derived the ratings and why we chose each category:

  • Cables/Clutter – Kitchens naturally have enough clutter that you don’t want a computer making even more of a mess.  A kitchen computer should have a minimal set of wires and clutter.  To this end, Laptops are the clear favorite.  The screen, the keyboard, the pointing device have the smallest footprint and typically have one wire: the plug.  Close behind the Laptops are All-In-Ones.  With the exception of the peripherals (i.e. keyboard and mouse), everything else is contained in one unit that looks more like a screen than anything else.  Desktops are the worst: everything is separated.
  • Performance – Desktops are the clear favorite here.  With an abundance of space, Desktops have the room to house the fastest motherboards (with the fastest chips), the biggest hard drives, the most memory, etc.   Laptops, with their ultra-compact size, tend to have the worst performance.  Laptops have less space for their hard drives, for example, that their capacities tend to be lower.   All-in-Ones are somewhere in between.  While they are bigger than laptops, they are  more compact than desktops.  So, while they have more space to work with, their performance lag desktops (especially when comparing price).  All-In-Ones perform better than laptops, but not as well as desktops.
  • Separation of peripherals – If you’re going to put an expensive piece of equipment in a kitchen, you need to make sure that it can handle the wear and tear.    In the case of a kicthen computer, you must assume burning, splattering it or, even worse, spiling stuff on it. The most likely recipients of this abuse on a computer are the keyboard and mouse.  To that end, Laptops fail miserably in this category.  Spill something on your laptop keyboard, they whole computer gets hosed.  Desktops and All-In-Ones have external keyboards and mice.  Muck those up and just get a new keyboard and mouse.
  • Touchscreen – Being able to touch your screen to push a button, scroll through a page is a huge convenience.  And if convenience trumps is the paramount feature of Kitchen computer, then a touchscreen is a near necessity.  If you’re making a meal from an online recipe and you need to scroll to the bottom, it’s much easier to just to gesture the scroll with your finger than use a mouse.  Touchscreen technology is relatively new in the home computer market so all three computer types are weak.  Still,  All-In-Ones,  proportionately, have the most touchscreen options.
  • Cost – For this category, we consider what you can get for $1,000.  Desktops are the clear favorite with the best performance as compared to the other two types.  Laptops trail slightly behind Desktops.  All-In-Ones are easily the most expensive.  Not only do most have proprietary components to make everything fit nicely, it is a newer category of computer.  There are just fewer All-In-One options available thus making it more expensive.

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, what type of computer should we buy?

Final Recommendation: All-In-Ones

They may not be the cheapest, the best performing, or even the most clutter free,  but All-In-Ones have a combination of key features that separate them from Desktops and Laptops:

  • Compact size – Where the computer is located is critical.  If the machine lives in the corner of the room, it will just not be as used as if it were in the center.  A compact size lets the kitchen computer live where it needs to live.
  • Touchscreens – Convenience is paramount in a kitchen computer.  If you’re holding a baby, and having a conversation on the telephone and need to look something up, being able to touch the screen to navigate a web page is almost a necessity
  • Separating peripherals – Spills are an inevitability in the kitchen and mice/keyboards are the most likely recipients of the abuse.   The kitchen computer must have a separate keyboard/mouse.

Additionally, All-In-Ones have some very cool industrial designs.   They tend to have sleek lines that tend to blend well with a modern stainless-steel kitchen.

Next Up: Macintosh vs. Windows