New Music Store Comes to BlackBerry

7digital_logo

BlackBerry users have cause for some serious excitement – a new UK mp3 store called 7digital has come out with a BlackBerry music store to rival the popular iTunes mp3 store for the iPhone and Amazon mp3 for the Palm Pre. Finally.

What’s more, 7digital boasts cheaper (and DRM-free) songs – many of which are only $.77, as compared to the many new $1.29 price increases iTunes has seen. For some time now, it seems as if the only option for BB users was to transfer music with desktop software or through a removable media card. No longer.

For me, the immediate problem with this was slow 3G speeds. I love my Curve, but sometimes even keeping an ESPN game tracker open could take forever. 7digital has an answer for this. When you choose to download a song over a slow connection, you will be downloading a lower-quality track. The next time you’re in an area that can handle more data transfer (or in a WiFi spot if your BB supports it), the song will re-download in high quality and replace the old version. Pretty cool, right?

After browsing the available songs in their store, I’m impressed. There’s even a “Future Releases” section to showcase upcoming music – though this is mostly EP’s and lesser known Indie bands. 7digital reports that it currently has over 7 million songs for download.

It seems like the number one thing I get attacked about when comparing the BlackBerry to the iPhone is the lack of music playability. While 7digital currently does not offer a compatible app for the Curve 8320, I’m still excited about the possibility.  Take that iPhone users – and I can listen to my music without squealing in delight at the word “Apple”. Sure, the BB’s storage isn’t comparable to that of the godPhone, but it’s a step in the right direction – and we’ve been able to picture message for years.

(via PCWorld)

Google Announces Plans for Operating System

Today, Google announced their plans to release an operating system dubbed Chrome OS.  So far, it’s mainly targeted at netbooks, though there are plans for release on all computers.  As with the nature of Google, the focus will be simplicity and effective use.  That is, it will be visually very basic, lightweight, and very user friendly compared to (though they didn’t mention it by name) Windows.

One of the neat things about this planned OS is the focus on a “webtop” environment.  I think Google is the perfect company to dive into this – making email, web browsing, and file access easier and quicker than ever.  As someone who uses every major Google web application (Gmail, Docs, Reader, Calendar, and Maps) quite frequently (and on my Blackberry), I have to say that I’m very excited about this.

Now, I’m not going to even begin to speculate on how Chrome OS will operate.  I think that anyone who does so is a fool – Google has shown us again and again why we shouldn’t predict with them.  They blow us away with simplicity.

Bottom line, I think we have something very exciting in store just around the corner.  Get pumped.  They have taken on a massive project, though.  Even though the technology world is abuzz and tweeting like crazy about this release, the vast majority of desktop users won’t be ready to switch their OS for years.  This isn’t a big deal now – face it, this OS is for the people already using netbooks and web applications.  However, if they are going to truly change the way operating systems work, they will have to prove that they have a safer, simpler, and more reliable alternative to Windows.

What do you think are the major obstacles that lie on the road between Google and a successful Chrome OS launch?  Will they succeed?  Will it be a worthy opponent to Windows?  To OS X?  Unix?!

A Few Steps to Prevent Laptop Overheating

It’s clear that desktop users have a solid advantage over laptop users in the category of customization and personal repairs. It’s much, much harder to do a repair on or even build a laptop than it is to do so on a desktop. If something goes wrong, such as constant overheating in this case, laptop users don’t have much choice than working around the problem, whereas those with stationary PC’s can simply add a fan.

My Pavilion has been overheating a lot recently, leading to lots of frustration on my part.  I mean, you’d be frustrated too if you had a few tabs open, maybe iTunes and OpenOffice – and your computer just shut off.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of tips/things to use so your computer doesn’t overheat.

  • Download SystemExplorer and use it.  It’s much more comprehensive than the default Windows task explorer.  Use it to guage how much memory certain processes are using.  For me, the big killer is Firefox the majority of the time.
  • If you know you won’t be using them for a while, quite background programs like LogMeIn, media managers, etc.  Even consider stopping Google Desktop indexing if you’re computer is particularly bad – this program can eat up memory like a piece of fried chicken at a Baptist convention.
  • Clean your computer with compressed air.  This sounds weird, but I’ve heard that cleaning out all that dust can actually lower the temperature.
  • Allow ample room for ventilation.  Since most laptop fans are on the bottom, this can be difficult.  The best way is by purchasing a cooling pad.  There are basically two types of cooling pads – electric ones and just plain pads.  The pads usually work to prop up the computer and allow the fan to blow out hot air, while the electric pads plug into the USB port and add extra cooling.  You can usually pick up a good Belkin pad for around $20.

Camping in Virginia

I got back from our family vacation earlier this afternoon.  The first 4 days of our trip was to camp in Virginia (near Rugby, I believe) and from there we went to stay in Boone, NC for 2 days.  This post serves two purposes – the first to link to pictures of the trip (just in case, for some reason, you’re interested).  The first linked photo below will take you to my Flickr set (more pics to come) and the second to my public Facebook album, though I would love for you to friend request me (as a few readers have already done)!

camping in virginia

camping in virginia

The second is a quick thought about mobile technology.

As you well know from my posts, I have a Blackberry.  Now, I am all for taking time away from electronic gadgets and gizmos to enjoy creation and rest.  However, car trips are a different story.  Now, I’ll follow up this post with one soley dedicated to this, but I discovered Pandora for Blackberry on the 5-6 hour ride up to the mountains.  It’s amazing.  First of all, it’s free.  Second, it’s easy to use, doesn’t take up much space, and buffers quickly.  If your iPod playlists are getting dull on car rides, Pandora for Blackberry is the way to go.

As a side note, it was great having my camera and iPod as well.  Obviously.  I debated whether to even say it, but it honestly amazes me how much we can do nowadays.  Especially on mobile devices.  I can watch movies, catch up on TV shows, and listen to custom playlists, audiobooks, and podcasts wherever I am, at the push of a button.  I have better specs on my $125 camera than anyone would have imagined a few years ago.  But I digress.  My point is simply that we often take for granted everything we can do with this stuff.  Technology is awesome.

Backup Contacts With Google Sync

A friend of mine (@mindstorms6) showed me how he uses Google Sync to backup his phone contacts to his Gmail account.  Like many Google mobile applications, I have found this suprisingly very useful.

I am always paranoid about losing contacts.  My phone is strictly for personal use, but I still have over 100 entries (including numbers, email addresses, etc) in the Address Book.  The thing is, even though I try and save them to the SIM card, they usually automatically save to the phone or switch when I add a picture or ringtone to the entry.  In addition, lakes, pools, and other natural beauties provide more cause to stress.

Anyway, Google Sync provides a free (except for data plan charges of course) way to backup all your phone contacts.  Simply download the program (or click here if you’re on your phone – iPhone, Blackberry, etc) and set your synchronize settings.  Next thing you know, all of your phone contacts will be listed in the “Contacts” section of your Gmail account.

And just like that, my stress is gone.  Enjoy.

Thoughts on Palm Pre (AKA, “iPhone Killer”)

As is the nature of Palm, simple design flaws keep this device from being anything close to an iPhone killer.  Let’s face it – a large part of the reason the iPhone is so big is because it looks good, and it’s easy to use (but mostly because it looks good).

OK, so what’s right with the Pre?  In terms of software, almost everything.  It looks as if Palm has FINALLY gotten a modern look for their OS.  In other words, it looks good – really good.  In a lot of ways, it looks a lot better than the iPhone software.  It is apparently Linux-based, and debutes a new operating system called webOS.  Basically, it works with different social networking, email, and web sites to make your life easier.  That sounds stupid, but that’s what it does – web searching, organizing, etc is much easier with the Pre than other smartphones.

Obviously, the phone is touchscreen, and many iPhone-like guestures and icons are used for navigation.  The display looks good for the most part, yet the screen is a little small and doesn’t look as flat as the iPhone’s.  The phone can, however, run multiple applications at the same time, using what seems like multiple workstations (like the multiple desktops in popular Linux distributions) for organization.

My real problem, however, is the slide out keyboard.  First of all, you cannot have a slide ANYTHING on a phone that’s considered to be an iPhone killer.  Part of the appeal of Apple’s smartphone is that it’s heavy duty – it’s metal, solid, and simple.  The Pre is plastic, it slides, and it’s more complex (read: cheap) looking.  Second, the keyboard is tiny.  And it doesn’t appear to be very raised.

All in all, Palm’s got a lot of work to do.  A bigger screen, an alternative to the small plastic keyboard and metal encasing would be a good start.

Mobile Twitter (It’s Better Than You Think)

Until recently, I’ve used SMS (text messaging) for updating my Twitter while out and about, and then I’d use either Twitter.com or TweetDeck to read, respond, and update while at home. The problem, however, was that I’d miss out on lots of tweets – which isn’t a big deal (I’m not interested in reading everything) except in times when I really need a quick response, game score, etc.

Enter TwitterBerry, “the” Blackberry Twitter client. It’s free, works great, and is customizable in terms of data connection and syncing. Basically, you have several different screens you can rotate through (Your Timeline, Friends Timeline, Update, etc). It’s easy to favorite and reply to tweets, as well as direct message your friends.

Now, you may think that you don’t want another application that is constantly connecting, depleting your battery juice, and alerting you every 5 seconds. TwitterBerry is very customizable, it only connects when you have it set to, and it has its own sound preferences so you don’t have to get notified every time you get more tweets.

I’ve really enjoyed using it so far. I don’t have cable, and I’ve been doing lots of stuff with family or friends while the NBA Playoffs have been on (I’m a HUGE NBA fan). However, I’ve been able to keep constantly updated live through TwitterBerry with scores, big plays, and commentary by other loyal fans.

TwitterBerry

Also, quick shoutout to @KateSpaeder, @TheNoLookPass, and @lakersnation for keeping me updated on my Lakers throughout the playoffs in times when I haven’t had a TV.

Unplug It, Turn It Off and Put It Down

Every now and then, I am in awe at how blessed I am, especially with technology. Let’s face it – I can keep up to date with my favorite sports teams, check my email, look over my exam study schedule, listen to a personalized playlist, audiobooks, or catch up on the latest episodes of Chuck – all while sitting in the bus on the way to class!

It seems as if technology has grown exponentially in the last 20-30 years.  From Bill Gates’ dream of a personal computer in every home (check this out), to the invention of the mobile phone, the iPod, and eventually the combination of the two, technology has changed how we live, think, and act.

It is important, though, to unplug, turn off and put down these devices.  I will be the first to admit that often times I listen to my iPod all day at school, check my Blackberry every 2 minutes, and power up the laptop as soon as I get home.  However, often my most inspirational and most thought-provoking moments are those away from all things battery powered.

Google is famous for encouraging employees to take creativity breaks, where they go outside, chat with friends, and do things non-tech related.   No wonder they are one of the most innovative, user-friendly and groundbreaking companies.

I encourage you to take some time out of your day (it doesn’t have to be much) and distance yourself from your gadgets.  I think you’ll find a refreshing change and a much needed break.  If anything, it will give your thumbs and eyes a chance to relax.

Quick Fix for Ubuntu/Windows Boot

grub-15

Recently, while waiting for my Grub 1.5 to start up, I was met by a blinking underscore. I sat for a few minutes, hoping that it would go away and that I wouldn’t be faced with anything like my previous problem.

However, it didn’t – and I got worried. Problems booting a secondary OS like Ubuntu is one thing, but not having access to anything can make your heart skip!

Thankfully, though, the fix was easy enough. Basically, before turning on your computer, you just need to make sure you have ejected all external media (flash drives, SD cards, external hard drives, etc). For some reason, Grub is confused, thinking that there may be a bootable OS plugged in.

Simply eject your media (while the computer is off) and try again. Voila!

Review: Blackberry Curve 8320 (First Thoughts)

blackberry-curve-8320

Last Friday was my birthday, and I asked for money from everyone in order to get a Blackberry Curve. For over a year now, I’ve wanted this phone. However, during my last phone purchase, they were more than triple the cost of my second choice, the BlackJack.

A recent problem with my BlackJack screen gave me an excuse to get the Curve, and the birthday gave me the means.  Here are my initial thoughts.

The Purchase

I decided to go with the 8320 series over the 8310 for one reason – wireless internet.  That’s right, the Curve can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots for quicker internet access, and my favorite, UMA calling.  Essentially, UMA makes calls through a wireless network to save minutes and eliminate the problem of poor phone reception at home and work locations.

I picked up my Curve for about $200 online.  It wasn’t brand new, but at a retail price of $499.99 at Best Buy (through T-Mobile, without a 2-year contract), I considered this a deal.  I went with the dark grey over the brighter silver color, since I figured it would hide scratches for blemishes.  However, both looked really good, and if I’m not mistaken, you can buy new faceplates if you don’t like your color.

Out of the Box

Due to the weekend, it was about 4 business days before I got my phone by mail.  Upon opening the box, I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t all that impressed.  Sure, the design is sexy, but it looked like the pictures I had seen, and there wasn’t any crazy special features that I could see.

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