Photography: Alice Lake

Alice Lake

Perhaps one of the best HDR shots that I have been able to get thus far. I took this on a 20 mile weekend backpacking trip through Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with some work buddies using my new Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens on my 7D. This shot alone definitely made hauling nearly 5 lbs. worth of camera worth it. You can also check out some of my other shots from this trip over at 500px.

Tutorial: OS X Mountain Lion Notification Center Keyboard Binding

The latest version of Apple’s Mac OS X “Mountain Lion” has been out for a while now, bringing along with it one key feature from iOS that I have really enjoyed – Notification Center. While I do like the Notification Center, I got tired of having to access it via my mouse and decided to map the feature to a keyboard shortcut. In this simple and quick tutorial I outline how you can also map the Notification Center feature to a custom keyboard shortcut of your choosing.

Wallpapers: Windows 8 RTM (Release to Manufacturing)

Wallpapers: Windows 8 Wallpaper

Microsoft certainly is betting a lot on the success of Windows 8 and their new vision for how users should interact with and use their Windows PC. Not typically known for style, the folks up in Redmond have outdone themselves from previous releases when it comes to the stock desktop wallpapers that often adorn our non-personal PC at the office. While the jury is still out on how consumers will respond to the UI formerly known as “Metro”, I can’t help but believe that everyone will be quite pleased with the stock wallpapers that will ship with Win8.

If you are impatient and interested in using these new wallpapers now, click here to download them from DeviantArt user Misaki2009.

Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad 2

Logitech Keyboard Cover Header

After the tablet market all but obliterated the short lived netbook craze, accessory companies have spent lots of time and resources on accessories to provide a netbook experience to the ultra portable tablet devices. Overall these efforts have widely led to accessories that take a tablet device elegantly designed for mobility and made it feel clunky and heavy, although slightly more usable for input intensive activities which really demand a keyboard. Luckily Logitech seems to have finally solved this problem with an accessory that is not only very functional but also matches the sleek design of the iPad to near perfection.

The Good Stuff

  • Fantastic design not only matches the iPad, but compliments it.
  • Super slim and lightweight makes for easy portability and doesn’t weigh you down.
  • Great battery life (in my month or so of using it, I have yet to need to recharge it).
  • Good keyboard layout with custom functions for easy access to common actions (copy/paste, media control, etc).
  • Keyboard keys are responsive and very similar to the Apple wireless keyboard in terms of travel and feel. I was easily able to use the keyboard, even though my hands are larger than most.

The Bad Stuff

  • Adds weight to a device where a major selling point is mobility. In order to use it as a tablet while holding the device you have to detach the keyboard cover or use the device in portrait view.
  • No magnetic attachment to keep the cover from flapping around.
  • If you want to use the iPad as a tablet you need to find a place to put the cover which can be awkward if you are standing or walking while using the device.

The Final Verdict

This has been the most difficult accessory I have ever reviewed and has resulted in me flip-flopping back and forth multiple times regarding my final thoughts. In the end, the main reason I chose to keep the unit and use it instead of the Apple Smart Cover was due to me transitioning to a MacBook Pro 15″ from my MacBook Air 13″ (I needed more horsepower for development work). With the added size and weight of a 15″ laptop, I have stopped carrying my laptop with me to work every day by default. This has left me using my iPad as my primary general use computer for most days and I having keyboard access for typing emails and other input intensive activities has been fantastic. I can only imagine that I will end up using my iPad even more for general computing once Microsoft releases Office for the platform.

In summary, if you don’t have an Ultrabook or MacBook Air (or any laptop larger than 13″) and do a large amount of email, web browsing, and other typing activities on your iPad then this is the last keyboard case/cover that you should look at.

Buy it on Amazon

Here’s A Bumper Sticker for the Portal Fans

I'd Rather Be Testing Bumpersticker

I must admit that in actuality this is a repost of a bumper sticker design that I created back when Portal 2 was released. Since then I made the decision to move the blog around and the original post was lost into the binary netherworld only to be reborn today. Please feel free to use this image to show your love for the fantastic franchise in any way you see fit. Personally, I am still trying to convince the wife to let me put this on the back of one of our cars to little avail.

Photography: This Space Reserved for CPU

Photography: This Space Reserved for CPU

While driving around Bend, Oregon this weekend I managed to find a number of parking spots clearly labeled, “Computer”. While it was rather apparent that these were labeled to signify that they were reserved for the computer store which they were in front of, I couldn’t help but snap a few quick pictures on the iPhone. If it wasn’t for the computer store, I would have just assumed that Bend was well aware of what our cars are eventually going to be and were simply a bit ahead of the curve.

Wallpapers: Awesome Diablo 3 Barbarian Artwork

Wallpapers: Diablo 3 Barbarians

Being a huge gamer, I spent a good deal of the month of May frantically clicking my mouse playing Blizzard’s latest blockbuster Diablo 3. As I normally do with any major game release, I hyped myself up by switching the desktop wallpaper on my Windows gaming rig to match with the anticipated release and Diablo 3 was no different. Above you will find a great piece of “fanart” (the artist at one point worked for Blizzard) appropriately titled “Barbarians Maintain their Vigil of Mt. Arreat”, by a great artist by the name of PHROZAC (check out his blog here).

Download a properly sized wallpaper for your desktop from PickyWallpapers.com by clicking here.

Microsoft “Surfaces” in the Tablet War, Should Android be Worried?

Microsoft Surface Header

So Microsoft made a pretty bold announcement yesterday by entering the hardware business with the reveal of their new Tablet/Laptop, or “Tabtop” called the Surface. We all knew that Windows 8′s Metro UI was designed with tablets in mind, but I don’t think too many in the industry expected the software giant Microsoft to get into the hardware business. And jump into the hardware business they have! Not only is Microsoft going to be releasing a Microsoft Surface Pro (Intel x86) for the high end users, but also a Microsoft Surface XT (ARM). To go along with these Windows 8 tablet devices are a two innovative takes on the Apple Smart Cover with their own first-party soft cover as well as a dedicated keyboard cover (once again for the power users). Ultimately this appears to be the coup de grace in the Windows 8 plan by releasing their own iPad/Android Tablet contender that does more than just behave as a tablet but brings along the entire Windows experience to the rapidly expanding mobile market.

Why I Think the Surface “Tabtop” is a Real Contender to Android and iOS

  • The “Tabtop” Factor: Perhaps the most compelling feature to the Microsoft Surface is the fact that it can serve as a tablet and a laptop, all in one package. This is even more evident with the Surface Pro model supporting USB 3.0 as well as an external display. With these features, the Surface is a tablet when you are on the go, and your primary work PC when docked to a monitor and keyboard at home or in the office.
  • Unified User Experience: One of the biggest complaints with the Android and Apple ecosystem is that you have a different experience on your phone/tablet than your desktop. What Microsoft has effectively done with the Metro UI for Win 8 and Windows Phone is create a unified look and feel that will make for a single user experience. Even if you don’t necessarily like the single user experience that is being presented, it still allows them to have a very unique point of strength when it comes to consumer mindshare.
  • Developer Support: As more software “app ecosystems” are created, companies have to fight hard to earn developer attention in order to ensure that they have a strong selection of apps. This was definitely a problem for Android in the earlier days and has been experienced by other new players in the mobile space like Blackberry, HP (webOS), and yes even Microsoft with their Windows Phone platform. By having their tablet run the same OS as their desktop they immediately have a host of applications, all of which users are already familiar with. This not only allows developers to maintain a single code base for both tablet and desktop operating systems, but also ensures a large number of developers for their fledgling platform (Metro Apps). To top it all off developers won’t have to deal with the rampant fragmentation that plagues the Android ecosystem.
  • First-Party Hardware & Software: It has been no mystery that the key to Apple’s success has been it’s ability to control both the software as well as the hardware it runs on. This has allowed Apple to meticulously hone the user experience and make sure that their customers not only love looking at the hardware, but also love using it at the same time. By owning their own hardware, Microsoft has ensured that the success of Windows is no longer in the hands of third parties. This is particularly important as we see Apple continue to eat away at Microsoft’s computer marketshare. Ultimately, this will allow Microsoft to own their own destiny so to speak.
  • Sleek Design & Innovation: Once again taking a page from the Apple playbook, Microsoft has put together a device that I am sure will even have the Apple fanboys turning their heads. It seems as though Microsoft has spent the past year or so watching the Apple accessory market to understand ways the iPad has fallen short and required a third-party accessory. Not surprising, the Surface will have a built-in kickstand for propping the device up on a table as well as not one, but two different keyboard covers to protect the device and add keyboard functionality. A quick search on Amazon will rapidly reveal a massive market for third-party iPad products to provide these same features. Hell, even at the time of writing this post I am reviewing the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for my iPad.

Why Google and Android Manufacturers Should be Paying Close Attention (Or Slightly Worried)

  1. Marketshare: Android tablets continue to struggle against the Apple iOS empire and with the Microsoft Surface, consumers can easily forgo an Android tablet and instead have their desktop and tablet in one. For most general consumers looking for a laptop the only two options these days are Windows or Mac. With the Surface, Microsoft will be leveraging their massive number of users already familiar with Microsoft and Windows, making it even harder for Android to create a compelling reason for Windows users to buy an Android tablet instead of the Surface.
  2. Developers: While Android certainly has a large number of developers, it pales in comparison to the number of developers who currently write software for the Windows platform. With the entrance of the Surface to the tablet space, one could make a good argument that we will see a large and vibrant ecosystem that is even larger than that for Mac and iOS. This ecosystem if marketed properly (big if here), could prove to be another compelling reason for consumers to choose Microsoft over Google.
  3. Windows Phone: If Microsoft is willing to create first-party hardware for the tablet market, one can only assume that they would be willing to do the same with the smartphone market as well. In fact there have been many rumors that they might even purchase Nokia to jumpstart such an endeavor. If this happens then perhaps Microsoft would be able to produce a similarly impressive phone running a version of Windows Phone capable of running the same Metro UI apps as the Surface. Android certainly has a large head start, but then again, so did Blackberry only a few short years ago.

Final Thoughts

First off, kudos to Microsoft for managing to pull of such a secretive “Apple-ish” event for a product that is actually worth of this sort of announcement. I watched the Engadget live blog with all the same intrigue as I did during the WWDC 2012 event, which is a feat for a Microsoft event to say the least. Who knows if the Microsoft Surface will be another flop like the Zune or a resounding success, but I would be willing to bet it is going to be the later of the two. Why? Everyone has agreed that the Windows 8 experience was designed for a tablet, and now Microsoft has unveiled a piece of hardware that is sleek enough to contend with the “Silicon King of Design” Apple. To top it off, I believe we are starting to reach computing capabilities where consumers will no longer need to be shackled to the desk and could instead have this Windows Surface serve as their primary computer, and do so better than Apple because of the built in support for desktop apps that users are already comfortable with. I would have chuckled at this concept until only a year or two ago when my wife effectively stopped using her laptop much at all and converted to using her iPad for almost everything. In fact, the only reason that she likes to user her laptop (docked) now is for the 27″ display and access to a mouse and keyboard. Not suprising, the Microsoft Surface Pro seems poised to deliver exactly those features, but in a much smaller package.

Time will tell if this bet will work in Microsoft’s favor, but I sure think they may have made a very smart move here. It will be very interesting to see how consumers react with these go on sale. It goes without saying that I will be looking forward to playing with these as soon as they hit the stores.