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Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

High Speed Internet in SaddleBrooke PLUS New Tablets

Copyright © 2012 Richard Beaty

I’ve got a couple of things for you today, including great news about high speed Internet in SaddleBrooke. I’ll also have something to say about those tablet thingies (technical word) you see all over the place.

Remember, you can read all current and past Two’s News articles right here on this Website by clicking “Two’s News Articles” at the top of the page. You can also select “Timely Updates” under the topics heading to read about things that come up between articles.

High Speed Internet Competition Comes to SaddleBrooke

Western Broadband’s monopoly on high speed Internet in SaddleBrooke is coming to an end. This is great news for streaming video and your pocket book.

Century Link’s DSL service is in the process of being bumped from its current 1.5 Mbps to 7 and even 12 Mbps. As a reference, 7 Mbps is what I consider to be the minimum required for streaming video over the Internet. Whether or not you can get these higher speeds right now depends on exactly where you live within SaddleBrooke. Some of my friends have already gotten 7 Mbps installed; others can get 12 Mbps. Still others, including me, remain stuck with 1.5 Mbps from Century Link. The company has assured me that all of SaddleBrooke will have the higher speeds by August of this year. In fact, 20 Mbps will supposedly be an option.

Here’s the good news about this. The prices I was quoted for the various speed options are:

  • $35/month for 7 Mbps
  • $40/month for 12 Mbps
  • $45/month for 20 Mbps

There will probably be introductory prices that are even lower, but you’ll have to wait till the service is available in your area before you will know what it is.

I am currently paying $70.45 a month for Western Broadband’s 10 Mbps Internet service only. Will Western Broadband drop their price in the face of this new competition? If they don’t, there will be a mass migration toward Century Link come late summer. I will certainly be in the migratory group.

Once the Century Link service is widely available, I’ll report on the current price, the speeds, and the quality of the service. For now, those few people I know that have it are very pleased.

Tablets, Tablets, and More Tablets

Late last year when I was considering writing this column, I was already planning on dedicating an article to those tablets you see everywhere. There’s a good chance you already own one. At that time there were relatively few brands available. The Apple iPad was (and still is) the sales leader. But there were a few Android tablets that were also worth considering.

That was then … this is now. So many new tablets have been introduced in the last six months that a thorough discussion would make for a very long (and probably boring) article. And the tablet options are about to get even bigger. My short list for the most significant new tablets includes the new Apple iPad and the Kindle Fire. Others will follow in later articles.

The New iPad

Ever since the iPad 2 was introduced, techie reporters have been looking ahead to the iPad 3 and speculating what it will be. The wait is over. Possibly the biggest surprise of all is its name. It’s not called the iPad 3; it’s just the “New iPad.” Its most notable upgrade from its predecessor is probably the high resolution “Retina” display. The 9.7-inch, 1536 x 2048 screen boasts 4x the pixels of the iPad 2. It is strikingly razor sharp with beautiful colors. The New iPad also has a faster processor, a bigger battery, and offers both WiFi and WiFi + 4G versions.

As is typical with new Apple introductions, problem reports have quickly surfaced with the New iPad. The main complaints are: it runs too hot and has poor WiFi reception. The most critical of these, the WiFi reception problem, is a high priority item with Apple, and I’m sure the issue will be resolved.

Also typical of Apple, it is the high-priced spread. $499 will buy you the entry level 16GB WiFi only version. The 16GB WiFi + 4G LTE version goes for $629. The top-of-the-line 64GB WiFi + 4G LTE version will set you back $829. It’s pricey, but it deserves its position as undisputed leader in the market.

The Kindle Fire

Late last year, the rumors of an Amazon tablet were realized with the introduction of the Kindle Fire. Critics have questioned whether the Fire is really a tablet. To be sure, it’s no iPad. It has a 7-inch screen (vs. iPad’s 10-inch display) and it does not have a camera. Personally, I can’t see myself walking around with a tablet taking pictures, so I don’t see that as a big issue. The Fire is somewhat less suited for general use than other tablets, but at a price-busting $199, it’s easy to overlook a few shortcomings.

Regarding the price, Amazon actually loses money on every Kindle Fire it sells. The company is obviously counting on making up the difference and a lot more on continued purchases of ebooks and other content. The Fire is to consumable content what printers are to printer ink and razors are to razor blades. I’m sure the business logic is sound.

The Fire is the first color Kindle, and as an ebook reader, it brings color to magazines and other color-enabled ebooks. It is essentially a content consumption device for Amazon’s entire library of ebooks, music and streaming video.

But in spite of whatever limitations it has as a full-featured tablet, the Fire goes well beyond just being a color Kindle. It is WiFi enabled, allowing you to surf the Web with the Fire’s new built-in Web browser. Thousands of the most popular apps and games are available, including Netflix and Hulu Plus for streaming movies and TV shows, Pandora and other music apps, and yes it has “Angry Birds,” for those of you who are into that. And you can easily stay in touch when you travel with its email apps.

My wife owns a Kindle Fire, and one of her most-used features is a recipe app. I must say, I like this one too. Not the app … the results.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last from Amazon in the tablet department. In fact, the rumor mill says we’ll see the Kindle Fire 2 very soon, possibly even before this month is out. It will probably have a larger display and maybe some other missing features of the original Fire. We won’t have to wait long to find out.

Microsoft Enters the Fray with Windows 8 Tablets

Sometime this year, maybe very soon, we will hear from Microsoft. Its new operating system, Windows 8, is ideally suited for tablets. I’ll tell you more about Windows 8 next month, but keeping on topic, Microsoft definitely has not ignored the tablet market. It’s likely that Windows 8 tablets will bring the tablet closer to being a replacement for the laptop, with a wider choice of available software.

How Popular Are These Things?

I just recently returned from a 2-week cruise. I was amazed at the number of tablets and e-readers I saw in use. In fact, sitting in the large theater in the evenings waiting for the programs to start, you could see little glowing rectangles in every row of the theater. And the owners are not kids. The boat was primarily made up of … how do I say this … “SaddleBrooke mature” people. I have so far resisted this toy, but I’m sure there’s one in my future. I’m going to wait to see the new Windows 8 tablets before I make a decision, but I will join the tablet generation soon.

Coming Next Month

Unless something more timely comes up between now and then, I will be reporting on the new Windows 8 operating system next month.

Speaking of timely items, my Two’s News version of Tools, Toys and Technology comes out once a month. As fast as things are happening in this field, a month is a long time. You can keep track of interim announcements and introductions on by just selecting “Timely Updates” under the Topics heading.