Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been checking out the Palm Pre 2 — the next generation keyboard / touch screen dataphone from HP. Previously I’d not considered a webOS phone much of a contender against the traditional leaders (Blackberry and iPhone), but this little unit changed my mind.

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In this review, I’ll touch on the things that appealed (or didn’t) to me about the unit. I won’t be going into a long description about each and every feature though, so if you’re interested in that, you can read more here.

For a $99 phone (with 3 year contract) there’s a lot going on inside this little black box. Continue reading “Looking for a smart phone? Consider the Palm Pre 2. Seriously.”

How to run your favourite desktop utilities from almost any computer using Portable Applications

photo.JPGIn the course of my day, I use two or three main desktop and laptop computers in two or three different parts of the city.

And yet, working on different devices, I still have access to a core set of tools and utilities that I find essential to my daily work. Here’s how I do it.

Some of the computers are ‘client’ managed, so I don’t have complete control over the software suite I have available to me.

There are two options that I use, though I find myself moving to one more often these days.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me write a little bit about the applications. Continue reading “How to run your favourite desktop utilities from almost any computer using Portable Applications”

Two words I thought I’d never see together: Library & Groupon

I must say I’m rather proud of the Edmonton Public Library — my local library. They were one of the first in Canada to:

  • offer free Wi-Fi to members,
  • jump into social media,
  • equip branches with self-checkout barscanners and RFID chip automated checkin,
  • allow online holds and media reservations,
  • create a mobile library app,
  • offer digital delivery of ‘loaned’ material.

And now they’re taking advantage of Groupon to offer discounts on membership renewals.

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dealdeets.jpgThis last initiative is just another step the library is taking to remain relevant, and stimulate membership by ‘being where the users are’, while magazines, newspapers and other forms of traditional media are being challenged by mobile internet technologies.

At the close of the offer, it looks like just under two thousand people bought in to the concept and bought $6.00 library cards — a steal, actually for all the services offered.

But mine can’t be the only forward-thinking library in Canada…got an example of your public library embracing tech? Write about it in the comments!

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Speed up your Internet experience by using the right DNS server

Last week I saw this LifeHacker article (via AppleInsider) about NameBench, a window utility that tests the speed of your system’s DNS servers.

And I was wondering if my DNS was as fast as it could be…

Previously, I’d switched my DNS services over to OpenDNS, a free alternate DNS Provider that adds value as:

  • Ultra-reliable, globally-distributed network
  • Industry-leading Web content filtering
  • Easy to use for families, schools, and businesses of all sizes

Google also has free public DNS services available, which NameBench scans and includes in the results.

But recently I’d noticed that often videos and other streaming media just wouldn’t play back smoothly, so after reading this bit in the life hacker article I thought I’d give NameBench a try.

“When millions of users all tap into the same DNS server addresses to resolve domain names, as Google DNS does by design, Akamai and other CDNs route content to those users along the same path, preventing the network from working optimally. This causes problems not only for Apple’s iTunes, but also any other media streaming or download service that uses a similar CDN strategy to distribute downloads.”

As an added benefit, NameBench checks to see if your DNS servers are vulnurable up to security standards, and if your DNS requests are being censored or redirected (WikiLeaks, for example).

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WOW.
According to NameBench, By switching back to my ISP, I’d get an amazing DNS speed improvement of over 100%!! Remember, this doesn’t speed up my internet connection, just the speed that the Internet translates domain names into those cryptic Internet IP addresses.

So, by making the recommended changes to my systems DNS settings, NameBench was happy with my settings. Now to see if I actually notice any improvement…

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In Real Life.
Well, I’m not too sure if I am noticing any difference yet or not. There’s so many different factors that can contribute to network speed that one change rarely makes a huge difference.

But still, every small improvement you make adds up, and contributes to a more efficient online experience.
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Reinventing the Walkie Talkie

walkie.jpgBack in the day, this kind of thing was what people used to talk to each other over distances, using radio waves. You were limited by the power of the unit and the type and number of obstacles between you and the person you were talking with.

And generally, your conversation could be overheard by anyone else using a similar device.

Fast forward to this century and the digital dataphone. And this nifty Android & iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app called HeyTell, brings the Walkie Talkie concept up to date.

Simple, but it works
HeyTell is a simple app. On an iOS device (I assume it’s similar for Android), HeyTell uses your contact list to manage contacts and invite others to the app.

Using HeyTell is drop-dead simple:

1) Select the contact to speak with

2) Push the ‘Hold and Speak’ button
That’s it. The voice message is beamed to their device. They can talk back to you immediately.
And that’s the way it works. It’s not real-time two-way communication, rather staged delivery of voice messages… a great way to check in, update someone, when it’s not convenient or practical to send out an email.

And it’s free (excluding Internet charges).



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.