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

Suppressing your Surges

Your home electronics are attacked multiple times on a daily basis by invisible threats. While we often warn about viruses and malware, an even more universal danger is electrical surging. Most of us recognize that lightning produces tremendous electrical discharges. The power of lightning is so great that even the best surge protectors simply fail to withstand the forces of nature. During a lightning storm, the only way to be absolutely sure that your devices won’t be damaged is to unplug them.

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Need a New Router?

Once you have a wireless electronic gadget, you definitely need a wireless router. It lets your devices communicate with each other and connects your home network (a local area network or LAN) to the internet (a wide area network or WAN). In brief, it is the control center for your home network. Beginners initially rank setting up and configuring a wireless router as somewhere between a necessary evil and an arcane, mysterious exercise. With a little practice, it is possible to be successfully up and running in just a half hour.

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A Matter of Life Or Death

Lest you get too excited about possible implications of the title, I’m only addressing the batteries in your latest portable electronic toys. Since many devices no longer have user replaceable batteries, a failed battery is no longer a trivial expense. Replacement may mean bringing or mailing the failed unit to the manufacturer’s repair depot, which replaces the entire device with a factory refurbished litter mate – at costs ranging from $99 (iPad) to $470 (Surface Pro) and delays of up to 6 weeks. Many dejected owners opt to discard the entire unit and replace it with a newer model.

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Microsoft Surface Price Range Indicated

When I first reported the announcement of the ground-breaking Microsoft Surface tablets (Live From Hollywood – It’s Microsofts New Surface Tablet), there was no indication of price. I’ve heard low-ball prices for the RT version that would make it competitive with the Kindle Fire. I’ve heard scary high prices well above $1,000 for the Pro version. It looks like neither one of those extremes are correct.

Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated a range from $300 to $800. The $300 price point would be for the RT version that is targeted to compete in the Android and Apple iPad market, while the higher priced $800 product would presumably be the price point for the fully Windows 8 capable Pro version that is essentially equivalent to Ultrabook laptops.

There’s the rumor, straight from the top of Microsoft. Now we wait for October 26 when Windows 8 and the Surface RT are to be officially introduced. We probably won’t see the Surface Pro till sometime in January.

Nikon’s New Android Coolpix Camera Announced

The Smartphone Sans the Phone – It Had to Happen

I have joked for a long time that the phone part of a smartphone is just a “phone app” for a camera.

Well, the joke has become reality. But the phone app has been left out.

Nikon has announced its new Android-powered Coolpix S800c point-and-shoot camera. In addition to taking those snapshots, you can now upload pictures directly from your camera to Facebook, etc. There is no phone capability, so you have to have a Wi-Fi connection to upload your photos.

When you’re not using your camera to take pictures, you can download apps from Google Play to your camera (again over Wi-Fi only). So now you can play Angry Birds on your camera.

What’s Behind This Move?

Point-and-shoot camera sales have been slumping badly, as the cameras on smartphones become better and better. People are now using their phones to do what they would have one time done on a small, point-and-shoot camera.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So Nikon’s solution is to put the same photo-uploading, game-playing capability into the hands of  point-and-shoot camera users … all the capability of a smartphone … except the smartphone itself.

You are bound to see more of this. Will this save the consumer point-and-shoot camera market? Personally, I doubt it. But it’s an interesting strategy.

The S800c should hit the stores in September and sell for $350.

Google TV — Round 2

Google TV has been around for a couple of years. It was an attempt to integrate Internet TV to your big screen, much like Roku and other devices I’ve reported on at length.

It was first offered in conjunction with a Logitech product that included a wireless keyboard and set-top interface box. The product was an unmitigated  flop. Logitech lost millions. They have finally decided to stop the hemorrhaging and announced that they are discontinuing the product. Funny. I didn’t even know it was still around until their announcement.

Well, Google TV is coming back. It will be built into a line of LG smart TVs. These Google TV-powered sets will include a remote with a full QWERTY keyboard.

Will Google TV fly this time? I’ll report more as this product rolls out.

Netgear Introduces First 802.11ac Wireless Router

A few days ago, I reported on the coming new standard that will dramatically increase WiFi speeds (Get Ready for Blazing Fast WiFi, April 13, 2012). Now the first actual product to support the new 802.11ac standard has been announced.

The Netgear R6300 router will hit the streets next month with a WiFi speed of over twice as fast as previously available. Of course, there are no devices that can make use of that standard yet. But if you want to be one of the first to be prepared when the devices start to show up, the R6300 is backward-compatible with the previous 802.11n and 802.11b/g standards, so you can use it with your current devices.

While Netgear is the first 802.11ac router to hit the market, others will soon follow.

Get Ready for Blazing Fast WiFi

WiFi as we know it is about to become obsolete. It’s been a good ride, but it will be blown out of the water with the new standard, known as 802.11ac.

The current standard (802.11n) can stream at speeds over 100 Mbps at close range, but that falls off rapidly with distance and obstacles within the home or office. This means that WiFi sometimes just isn’t good enough for high bandwidth applications, like streaming TV. These applications sometimes require going to Powerline Network Adapters to deliver a wired connection over household wiring. But the new standard in WiFi is reported to outstrip even direct cable connection in terms of speed.

The new protocol is expected to hit the streets sometime in the last half of 2012. To take advantage of it, you will need a new router. OK, routers don’t cost too much. But then you’ll need a new laptop with the 802.11ac chipset that can send and receive in the new standard. Want to take advantage of the new speed to stream video to your TV? Now you need a new smart television or other streaming TV receiver that can work with the new standard.

Hmm? It’s starting to get expensive, huh? But that’s the way it is with technology. When it advances, we get new performance and capabilities, and we open our pocket books to be able to use it.

Printer Ink Costs … How They Stack Up for Different Printers

Which Printer Delivers the Best Ink Economy?

Ever wonder what you spend per page for printer ink? You probably know it’s a big number, but how big is it?.

Do different printers provide better ink economy? The answer to that one is a definite, YES.

I ran across a very enlightening article on the subject (read it here). To summarize…

One of the more popular printers is the HP Photosmart 5510. I’ll use that one as a benchmark. Average ink costs for this printer is 11.4 cents per page.

Kodak advertises low ink consumption, and it appears to be true. The Kodak Hero 3.1 runs about 9.5 cents per page.

I have two printers in my office. The Canon Pixma is 13.8 cents per page … OUCH! But my Epson Artisan 835 delivers an impressive 9.2 cents per page ink cost, even better than the Kodak.

Should You Buy Standard or High Yield Cartridges?

High yield ink cartridges deliver better ink economy the the standard smaller sizes. But that could be false economy, depending on you much you use your printer.

If you use you printer regularly, the higher yield cartridges are the way to go. But if you use it rarely, high yield cartridges may dry up before you use them, resulting in higher cost per page than standard cartridges.