The Geniu$ Bar

Many consumers prefer large retail stores when it comes to electronic device repair. We live in a world that’s increasingly defined by large corporations promoting their presence and cajoling shoppers into believing quantity = quality. Many customers with broken laptops, phones and tablets genuinely believe that the big shop, with its brand name, should be their first stop for repairs.

This three part series presents another side to some of the leading consumer repair shops — BestBuy, Staples and the Apple Genius Bar — with published reports from former employees and feedback from disgruntled customers, so that the buyer may beware.

The Geniu$ Bar
Continue reading

best buy secrets

Dirty Little Secrets: The Geek Squad

Many consumers prefer large retail stores  when it comes to electronic device repair. We live in a world that’s increasingly defined by large corporations promoting their presence and cajoling shoppers into believing quantity = quality. Many customers with broken laptops, phones and tablets genuinely believe that the big shop, with its brand name, should be their first stop for repairs.

This three part series presents another side to some of the leading consumer repair shops – BestBuy Geek Squad, Staples Easy Tech and the Apple Genius Bar — with published reports from former employees and feedback from disgruntled customers, so that the buyer may beware.
best buy secrets Continue reading

Google has combined their privacy policies into one.

Google’s New Privacy Policy: What Does it Mean?

Google has combined their privacy policies into one.We’ve been inundated over the past couple of weeks with family, friends, and customers asking us about the recent changes in Google’s Privacy Policy. From an investigation by the European Union to being sued by privacy groups, Google has garnered quite a reaction. In fact, I can’t think of a single time that a privacy policy has caused such an uproar. So what does this change mean for web users? The short answer is: absolutely nothing. Despite predictions of Doomsday and one prominent Slate.com author lambasting Google for breaking their “Don’t be evil” motto, there is absolutely nothing terrifying or worrisome in the new policy. Here’s the long answer, with some explanations, as narrated through a series of questions we were asked recently.

Continue reading

Ultraportable Laptop Buying Guide: What You Need to Know to Make the Most of Your Money

Ultraportables are the latest big thing in laptop computers, and it’s obvious why: all the power and performance of a standard laptop, in an incredibly (one might almost say ultra-) portable and lightweight package. Ultraportables are the summit of what a laptop was envisioned as being. So now that you’ve decided to invest in the future, what exactly do you look for when buying an ultraportable laptop? The short answer is the same things you would look for in a regular desktop PC. The long answer? Read on:

The Types and Differences of Ultraportable Laptops

Types of Ultraportable Computers
From Top to Bottom: Toshiba’s Portege Z830, Apple's MacBook Air, Google's Chromebook

As we talked about in our introduction to ultraportable laptops, ultraportables come in many different sizes, shapes, and configurations.

We looked briefly at the difference between ultraportable laptops, netbooks, and tablets: netbooks are outdated compact laptops which were built with all the features of a laptop but in a smaller form and with processing power limiting functions to 1-2 tasks at a time.  Tablets, on the other hand, were built with the same hardware and components as ultraportable laptops but are designed to be a balance between a laptop and a smartphone with appearance and design as defining factors.

Today we look at the different types of ultraportable laptops and what sets each apart from one another.  Everyone is a player in this emerging market with PC makers, Apple, and even Google all laying a stake with ultraportables.  As we’ll see the characteristics of weight, battery life, and hardware configuration set ultraportables apart but function and form also play a big role.  Additionally, each type is defined by their small contributions and enhancements to the laptop, such as wireless syncing and cloud based offerings.

Read on to learn about the different types of PC, Apple, and Google ultraportable laptops and how the MacBook Air from Apple and Google’s Chromebook add unique twists that set themselves apart from the others. Continue reading

An Introduction to Ultraportable Laptops

Ultraportable LaptopsOver the next few days we’re going to take a look at a new generation of laptops – ultraportable laptops – and show you how you can leverage ultraportable laptops for your digital lifestyle, what to look for when buying one, and how to know when you’re buying the right computer.

What is an Ultraportable Laptop?

Ultraportable laptops are a newer breed of laptop that has been introduced to consumers in the last few years. These computers, aimed at providing the full experience of a normal laptop, typically apply the “less is more” approach in design so they can be more easily carried around than your 6-10 pound brick of a laptop.

Standard classifications for ultraportable laptops have yet to surface but Intel is leading the way with their Ultrabook standard to create a standard among PC makers. While less is more, the features of ultraportable laptops allow users to go farther and be more mobile than they can be with traditional laptops. Ultraportables are defined as laptops whose screens are less than 13.3 inches and weigh less than 4 pounds. Although screen sizes might vary and be as little as 7 inches, the emphasis of an ultraportable is its weight which determines, many times, what features are or are not included in the laptop. Battery life, overall thinness, and memory/hard drive space are also determining factors that make classify a laptop as an ultraportable.

Read on for more defining characteristics, netbooks are now considered defunct, and an overview of the various types of ultraportable laptops.

Continue reading

Catch Notes: A Simple Productivity App for Notes and Reminders

Catch Notes Notes and Reminders Screenshot on AndroidAs I was researching and thinking about programs to include in my recent post on Essential Downloads for the Everyday Person, I ran across a small, yet promising iPhone/Android application which mirrors the simplicity of Evernote but brings a specialized feature to note taking that Evernote does not accommodate: note reminders.

Catch Notes is a simple and effective note taking program which allows you to take notes quickly and add reminders to your notes so you don’t forget about them.  Reminders is one feature that Evernote lacks and is lacking although Evernote is still great for collecting and organizing vast amounts of data.

Catch presents the user with an easy to use application which turns your notes into task reminders and is built for the user whose note taking needs are short-term rather than long-term.

Learn more about Catch at PC World or download and try the app out for yourself online or on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device today.

What other task/note taking applications do you use on your smartphone or tablet devices?

School, Work, and Play in the Cloud

Helpful Digital Productivity and Cloud Computing TipsIt’s August and we’ve been focusing on back to school tips recently but, as you’ve noticed, digital back to school tips aren’t necessarily just for students.  Practical back to school digital improvements such as efficient note-taking/storage and iPhone protection are for everyone.

In preparing for our digital back to school tips sections, a few weeks ago I came across an article from PC World about Going Back to School in the Cloud and I thought to myself – “this is a great guide to cloud computing that anyone can use”.  There’s a lot to talk about in this article but here are a few key take-aways in the areas of online office suites, online digital storage, and cloud based file syncing and sharing that will help you make better use of new (and old) technology.

Continue reading

Essential Software for the Every Day Person

Whether you’re a student, a busy professional, or just a person learning how to make better decisions in life everyone from time to time needs to switch things up, right?  In the technology world that means all of us are constantly looking for new computer programs to make our lives more efficient and productive.  I recently read an article on PC World of their picks of the must-have downloads for 2011 school year and I realized that there were a few programs I use personally that make sense for just about everyone, not just students.

Evernote: Evernote is a free program download and web service that allows you to take quick notes of any kind (text, images, voice memos, etc.) and store them in an easy, tagged based system.  Evernote is available as a PC or Mac program but you can also use the web or your smartphone (iPhone or Android) to take, record, and retrieve your notes from just about anywhere.  If you consume a lot of information and need to save it in an easy to retrieve manner, then this program is for you!

Scrivener: Scrivener is a great tool that allows students or individuals who like to compose and organize larger written works than just notes.  Scrivener functions as a digital white-board or cork-board to brain storm ideas, move paragraphs, and compose perfectly written masterpieces, whether it’s a term paper, business deal, or the next New York Times Bestseller.  This is another tool that I have personally used and I must say that I have found nothing better to organize my thoughts for larger writing ‘assignments’.  This program is available for Mac as a 30 day free trial and costs $45 after the trial ends.  You can also take advantage of the public beta of their new Windows version as well!

LibreOffice/OpenOffice.Org: If you’re looking to unshackle yourself from Microsoft Office and not pay the sometimes ridiculous software prices, I would recommend checking out either of these open source office suites.  I have personal experience with OpenOffice.Org and can only assume that LibreOffice is the same if not better.  Both office suites offer alternative programs other than Word, Excel, or PowerPoint but give you the same functionality as those name brand software titles and also you to open and save in native Microsoft formats.

Check out the PC World article for some more great back-to-school software tips.  Share your recommendations in the comments below.

Top Back-To-School Tech Tips

back-to-school computer tipsWith the school year just around the corner, students across New York are gearing up to ship out to colleges, some going back to a familiar haunts and others just getting ready for a new adventure. And while some students are lucky enough to get a brand new computer, in this tough economy a lot of students and their families have to cut back on expenses and make old laptops and other devices stretch just another year or two. With that said, there are a couple of tech tips and tricks that can give new life to old equipment and make it stretch through one more year away from home.

Continue reading