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)