Amazon's New Devices - 2012 Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite

Posted: September 6, 2012

The Kindle Paperwhite is a new e-reader that sports better resolution with 212 pixels per inch, improved contrast, a new illumination technology that is described as a "flattened out fiber optic cable" that is LED powered, improved battery life of 8 weeks (even with the light on), and many new features. Some of the features include "time to read" which tells you how long it will take you to finish the book you are reading, new author biographies, new parental controls, and ability to access the lending library.

Amazon had a press conference today that unveiled three new devices. One new e-reader and two new versions of the Kindle Fire. Check out the new devices below.

There are WiFi and 3G versions, both with or without special offers (advertisements). The least expensive is the WiFi version with special offers and costs $119. The 3G version costs $179, and you can add $20 to either model if you do not want any special offers. You can preorder now and it will begin shipping on October 1.

The new Kindle Fire is similar to the prior Kindle Fire but now has a better, faster processor with "40% faster performance", 1Gb of RAM (2x the old version), and longer battery life of 9 hours. The best part is that the price has been reduced to $159. You can order today and it will ship on Sept 14.

The Kindle Fire HD is a totally new tablet that comes in 7" and 8.9" versions. You can choose either 16Gb or 32Gb of storage. The 7" version has a display resolution of 1280x800 and the 8.9" display has a full HD resolution of 1920x1200. Both have IPS (in-plane switching) displays, advanced polarizing filter, and anti-glare technology. The 8.9" display has 254 pixels per inch.

The processors are new TI OMAP dual core processors that come in either a 1.2GHz or 1.5GHz flavors. Apparently these processors have 40% more memory bandwith than the Tegra 3 processors in many tablets today.

The sound is improved and is called Dolby Digital Plus and there are dual stereo speakers. There is also an HD front facing camera, HDMI out, and Bluetooth.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos put a lot of emphasis in his presentation on the improved WiFi technology in the new HD tablets. They are dual band (supporting both 2.4 and 5GHz bands) with two antennas and support MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) technology built-in. These are the first tablets with dual band MIMO and Amazon claims WiFi is 41% faster than the iPad3 and 54% faster than Nexus 7.

Some of the new features available on the new tablets include improved syncing of your content across devices. They call it Wispersync and it works for regular books, audiobooks, movies, and games so that you can pick up where you left off on any device. There is another feature Amazon dubbed as "immersion reading" that highlights the words of an audiobook in real time as it is being read to you.

There is an feature called "X-Ray" that will display relevant information such as actor biographies in movies or more information about characters, themes, and background in book.

Kindle Free Time is a new parental control that limits the amount of time kids can use the device. Multiple profiles can be made with different restrictions for each child using the device.

The 7" Kindle Fire HD starts at $199 for the 16GB model and $249 for the 32GB upgrade. The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD starts at $299 for the 16GB version and $369 for the 32GB device. You can preorder today and the device will ship on November 20th.

The new Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE has all of the features of the 8.9" Kindle Fire HD but also has a 4G LTE modem and offers increased storage space of 32GB or 64GB. The data plan cost $50/year for 250Mb/month and includes 20GB of cloud storage plus a $10 Amazon Appstore promotional credit. You may pre-order today and it will ship on November 20th. The 32GB version costs $499 and the 64GB device is $599.

CalenGoo - The Best Calendar for the Kindle Fire is on Sale at 50% Off

Posted: September 5, 2012

CalenGoo is one of the only calendar applications that actually works on the Kindle Fire. It enables you to sync your Google calendar with the Kindle Fire.

It is an excellent calendar application and will also display and sync your Google tasks. Right now it is 50% off and costs $2.99. Unfortunately its back to the regular price of $5.99... hopefully it will go on sale again soon.

There are lots of reviews on Amazon and most are positive. I have not seen this app go on sale very frequently, so it might be a good time to grab it if you have not already!

How to Install Google Now on SpazeDog Jelly Bean Nexus One Rom

Posted: August 20, 2012

I have shown you how to install the SpazeDog Jelly Bean (JB) or Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) roms on your Nexus One before. However, one of the cool new features in Jelly Bean is called Google Now but is not currently being bundled with SpazeDog roms.  Learn more about Google now and how to install it below.

Learn more about Google Now here - Google has a video explaining what it can do.

If you are using an ICS rom but still want to try Google Now, you are in luck, it is possible.  Read about how to install Google Now on an ICS device over at xda-developers.

If you already have the SpazeDog Jelly Bean rom installed on your Nexus One, follow this link to xda-developers and download the latest version of the AROMA installer for Google Apps. Copy the zip file to your Nexus One's SD card.

Reboot the Nexus One into recovery → select "install from sdcard" → "choose zip from sdcard" → "gapps-jb-aromainstaller" (or whatever you named the zip you downloaded) as shown below.
Then just follow the prompts until you get to the selection of "Full Install" vs "Custom Install."  Choose "Custom Install" and then select "Google Now - App."  The offline dictation is not needed and it is very large - if you decide to install it make sure you have enough room on your system partition.
Now when the installation is complete, your phone will reboot and you will be able to use Google Now!

How to Change the Stock Evervolv or SpazeDog ICS or JB Boot Animation

Posted: August 19, 2012

Although Evervolv and SpazeDog ICS and JB roms for the Nexus One are very good, I did not really like the boot animations provided.  Luckily, that is very easy to change.

I decided to use the stock Jelly Bean (JB) boot animation found on xda-developers, but you can search for and use any one that you like.

If you use the above boot animation, the easiest way to install it is download the "flashable" version to your phone's SD card, reboot into recovery, then "install from zip" and install it.

You can also manually copy the to the correct folder "/data/local" using root explorer or a similar app directly on your phone.

If you are using a different boot animation that is not flashable and you do not want to manually copy the file on you phone, you can use adb to push it directly to your phone. Once you have found and downloaded the boot animation you want to put on your phone, copy it into the same folder where ADB is located - for me that is C:/android-sdk/platform tools, but will vary depending on your computer.  Also, make sure the boot animation is a zip file named "bootanimation".

Plug in your Nexus One to your computer.  Open the command prompt and cd to the location of ADB:
cd C:\android-sdk\platform-tools

adb push /data/local 

adb reboot
That should be all you have to do!  Enjoy your new boot animation.

SpiderOak Review - The Most Secure Cloud Storage Service

Posted: August 13, 2012


is a cloud storage and syncing service similar to Dropbox, Google Drive, or Copy. What sets SpiderOak apart from the others is their zero-knowledge policy regarding your data. All data is encrypted prior to being uploaded to SpiderOak's servers and you control the master encryption key derived from your password. While the other cloud storage providers mentioned seem to value ease of use and design over privacy and security, SpiderOak makes it clear the privacy is the most important thing to them. The fact that SpiderOak values privacy is excellent but the SpiderOak application could use some polish.

How to Install any Jelly Bean or Ice Cream Sandwich ROM on a Nexus One

Posted: July 29, 2012

This guide will show you how to install any Jelly Bean (JB) and Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) ROMs on your Nexus One. I wanted to update my aging nexus one with ICS or JB but couldn't find a very good update guide for beginners, so I decided to write one.

Note: this was initially written specifically for SpazeDog roms, but as they have not been updated in a while I have provided links to the Evervolv roms as well. If you would like to try a different ICS or JB rom this guide should work, just substitute with the appropriate rom and depending on the one you choose, you may also need to install Google apps (if not included).

Disclaimer: This guide involves making changes to your phone that potentially could brick your phone leaving it unusable. I am not liable for any changes you make or problems you may have with your phone. You should at least be familiar with entering commands using command prompt. This procedure will erase ALL the data on your phone.  Make sure you have a backup of everything. A nandroid backup is recommended. Proceed at your own risk.

Before we get started make sure you have the following: a rooted Nexus One, a USB cable to attach your phone to a computer, and the Android SDK. If you are just now installing the Android SDK, open the SDK manager and make sure to install the "Tools" and in "Extras" the "Google USB Driver" as shown in the screenshot. Alternatively, you just download ADB and Fastboot (just google "ADB Fastboot Download"). If you have a Mac see this thread to get started with ADB and Fastboot.

Top Kindle Fire Apps to Sideload

Posted: July 4, 2012

The Kindle Fire is an excellent tablet for consuming Amazon's content from videos, to music, to books.  But there are some limitations - one of the most frustrating is the inability to use any android apps, as mentioned in this review.

Fortunately, you can install some applications that are not available for the Kindle Fire in the Amazon App store by sideloading them. If you need help getting started, read this tutorial on how to sideload apps from an Android phone.

These are my top sideloaded apps that enhance the functionality of your Kindle Fire

2012 Airport Express Review - Better Performance, Less Portability

Posted: June 19, 2012

Apple Airport Express review
The New Airport Express provides significantly improved performance but slightly reduced portability.

+ Extremely easy set-up.
+ The 802.11n simultaneous dual-bands provides better performance and range compared to the prior generation Airport Express.
+ Audio port for Airplay streaming and a USB port for network printing (unchanged from prior generation)

- Not as well suited for travel as the previous generation (slightly larger form factor and it now requires a cord instead of just plugging into an electrical socket).
- No Gigabit Ethernet.

WWDC - New 2012 Apple Macbooks

Posted: June 12, 2012

Macbook Pro
At the WWDC 2012 conference held by Apple a number of new updates were announced.  If interested you can watch the Keynote Presentation here.

Both the new Macbook Pros and the Macbook Airs have been upgraded with Ivy Bridge processors, USB 3, and at a minimum Intel HD 4000 graphics.  This is a pretty significant upgrade as graphic performance should see a considerable improvement and USB 3 is extremely fast compared to the old USB 2 we have been living with for years.

The high end Macbook Pro also has a redesigned (thinner) case and a "retina" display that contains 220 pixel-per-inch with a resolution of 2880 x 1800.

How to Wirelessly Sideload Apps to a Kindle Fire Without a Computer

Posted: June 6, 2012

If you have a Kindle Fire and an Android phone, you may have noticed that some of the apps on your phone cannot be downloaded to the Kindle Fire from the Amazon App Store.  Or, if you bought apps from the Google Play Market for your phone, you might want to use them on your Kindle Fire.  Check out the video below or read on for detailed instructions.

Fortunately you can "sideload" apps by installing their apk files on your Kindle Fire. This does not requiring rooting your device. Some apps work on the Kindle Fire even though they are not officially supported, but others do not. For example, some of my favorites I was unable to download directly from the Amazon App Store to my Kindle Fire were Dropbox, Business Calendar, WeatherBug Elite, Google Voice, ADW.launcher EX, and Google Maps. I attempted to sideload all of these, but Business Calendar and WeatherBug do not work.  The others worked great!

Step 1: Let us start with your Android phone and install 2 applications:
  1. Install SugarSync Amazon cloud drive - it is free, supported on the Kindle Fire, and every time you want to add an application you can do it via wifi instead of needing to plug in your phone and kindle into a computer.
  2. Install App Backup and Restore - it is also free and very easy to use. It will create the .apk installation files that you need to install on your Kindle Fire.
Step 2: Get the .apk files you want from your Android phone:
  1. Open App Backup and Restore and select the apps you want to install on your Kindle Fire.  Then press "Backup Selected Apps" at the bottom of the screen.  This will save them to your phone's SD card in a folder called, "App_Backup_Restore."
  2. Automatically create .apk files for any new updates (this step is optional):
    1. Press the up arrow in the right lower corner (or the menu button on your phone) and select "settings."
    2. Check "Auto Backup" and "Auto Backup Notify" - now the new apk files will be automatically updated on SugarSync whenever new versions are installed and you will be notified to reinstall them on your Kindle Fire.

Step 3 - Sync the backup folder to SugarSync and your Kindle Fire:
  1. Now open the SugarSync app on your phone.
  2. Under the "My Devices" section select your phone.
  3. Scroll down until you find the folder "App_Backup_Restore" and tap the circle with the arrow in it on the right.  Now select "Sync" and then "Yes" at the next dialog.

Step 4: Enable the Kindle Fire to install the .apk files you backed up:
  1. Set aside your phone, and grab your Kindle Fire. Tap the settings/wifi/battery icon in the upper right corner.
  2. From the drop down menu tap "More." 
  3. Scroll down and tap "Device." 
  4. Then turn "ON" the "Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources."
Step 5 - Download and install your apps
  1. Install Sugarsync Amazon cloud drive on your Kindle Fire.
  2. Open SugarSync and tap "Magic Briefcase" then "Mobile Folders" and finally "App_Backup_Restore" as shown below.
  3. Now select any of the APK files you uploaded - they will download and you will receive a prompt to install them. 
  4. Install your apps and enjoy!
Please note that some applications will not work with the Kindle Fire as mentioned above. ADW.Launcher EX works and will create a normal Android home screen if you prefer the classic Android home screen as mentioned in my Kindle Fire review.  Other apps that I have found that work are Dropbox, Google Voice, and Google Maps (without GPS). You can try any apps you have to see if they work... if they don't, just uninstall them by holding down on the application icon, then selecting "remove from device."

Update 1: Check out my post, Top Kindle Fire Apps to Sideload, to learn about some apps you can sideload to really increase the functionality of your device.

Update 2: The newer Google Voice app no longer works with the Kindle Fire. Versio0.4.2.54 works well and can be found here in the 2nd post at XDA developers.

Pioneer VSX-921-K Review and Proper Setup for the Best Sound

Posted: June 3, 2012

Pioneer VSX-921-K review
I bought the receiver along with Pioneer SP-BS41-LR bookshelf speakers, a Pioneer SP-C21 center channel speaker, and the Pioneer SW-8 subwoofer. I have been very happy with the sound quality - it is excellent for both music and movies.  Unfortunately, the user interface is very outdated.

+ Excellent quality sound
+ Plenty of inputs
+ Automatic configuration with included microphone

- Outdated user interface
- Not very intuitive - it takes reading the manual to figure out how to access a lot of the features

Refurbished Kindle Fire Review - An Excellent Tablet for the Price

Posted: June 2, 2012

 is an excellent tablet for the price. I purchased a refurbished Kindle Fire when it was the Gold Box deal of the day for $139 and have been very happy with it overall with a few small caveats.
Kindle Fire Review
Should you buy a refurbished Kindle Fire? I highly recommend it.  You get the same 1 year warranty as a new one, and I honestly could not tell that mine was refurbished.  When it arrived it was packaged as if it was new and there were no signs of use whatsoever - it looked brand new, and has worked perfectly ever since!
+ Inexpensive
+ Excellent, intuitive user interface
+ Nice high resolution IPS display
+ Performance - applications, media, and web browsing are fast
+ Tight integration with Amazon media services (video, music, books, etc.)
+ Minimalist design

- Some applications in the Amazon App Store are not available for the Kindle Fire
- Besides music, Amazon Cloud Drive is not fully integrated into the OS
- No "advanced features" such as GPS, bluetooth, or wireless 3G (honestly, you can't really expect these at such a low price point) Review - Unlimited Syncing Between Devices

Posted: May 29, 2012

UPDATE: Now that Cubby is out of Beta the feature that really set them apart from the other online cloud storage sites below, namely, unlimited syncing between computers, is no longer free. You have to pay at minimum of $7/month (for 100GB storage) to access that feature. I no longer recommend this as a free cloud storage service as Dropbox and Copy can do exactly the same thing (and they both make it much easier to get extra free space) and SpiderOak is probably more secure albeit somewhat more difficult to use.

New Chrome Devices - Chromebooks and Chromebox

New Chrome Devices

I was very fortunate in receiving one of the original CR-48 chromebooks when Google was beta testing them. I still use it every day - it is a wonderful device for browsing the internet, email, even watching online videos. It can start to stutter a little with 1080p quality video, or with lots of media heavy tabs open, but other than that it is amazingly powerful and versatile. It is the only thing I take when on trips - the built in 3G is very nice. Now that google drive is being implemented into the OS its even better.

I am very excited about the announcement of the new chrome hardware today. I am thinking about getting a Samsung Series 3 Chromebox for a cheap home theater PC. I think the onboard graphics should be plenty to play online HD video.

Update: found this review from Engadget of the chromebox. Looks like it handles video well!

How to print any document from your Kindle Fire

Posted: May 28, 2012

Currently, there is not a good selection of applications to print documents from your kindle fire.  But, with a little bit of work, you can print documents from your Kindle Fire or any device for free using the following method.

  1. A mac computer that is connected to a printer.
  2. A Kindle Fire. Note: this will also work with any device as long as you can add the document to SugarSync - any computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Step 1:
Open a SugarSync account. If you already have one, proceed to the next step.  Note: if you prefer, you can use the same instructions but substitute Dropbox as long as you have it sideloaded on your Kindle - Sugarsync is being used here because it is supported and can be downloaded from the Amazon App Store on the Kindle Fire.

Step 2:
Download the SugarSync app from the Amazon App Store on to your Kindle Fire.

Step 3: 
Download SugarSync for your mac. Now, find the "Magic Briefcase" folder - it should be in your documents folder.  Open the Magic Briefcase and create a folder in it named "Print."

Step 4:
On your mac launch the application "Automator."  When it opens and asks for the type of workflow, choose "Folder Action" and then choose the folder you created in step 2, "Print," under the "Folder Action receives files and folders added to" menu.

Step 5:
Using the search function in Automator, type in "print" and drag "Print Finder Items" to the right into the workflow list.

Step 6:
Using the search function of Automator, type in "delete" and drag "Move Finder Items to Trash" into the workflow beneath "Print Finder Items" so that it looks like this.

Step 7:
Save your workflow, exit Automator, and you should be done!

Now any document you put in the "Print" folder of your magic briefcase will print automatically as long as your mac is turned on and connected to the internet. You can put documents into your "Print" folder from your Kindle Fire or any android device. It will then move the document to the trash (if you would like the documents moved to a printed or completed folder you can do that by creating another folder and replacing step 6 with "Move finder items" to your designated folder instead of the trash.

Student Loans

Posted: May 15, 2012

If any of you have student loans and have not already consolidated them, you should really look into this student loan consolidation program from the Federal Government.  If you have a Department of Education Loans (FFEL) and some are serviced by the Department of Education and others by a commercial lender (bank) you should be eligible for a 0.25% interest reduction.  That doesn't sound like much, but it can make a big difference in the long run.  If eligible you should receive an email from the Department of Education asking if you would like to participate - don't ignore it as just another email about your loans!