Monthly Archives: October 2011

Samsung Galaxy S II: First Impressions

The SII has a beautiful screen

My husband has been using a dumb phone for years but was recently drawn back into the fold of smartphone users by the Samsung Galaxy SII.  He had a love at first sight experience a couple of weeks ago at the AT&T store and within days had an SII of his own.  I have an iPhone 4, and I must admit, the extra screen real-estate is nice.

My husband uses the voice input, search and command features a lot.  He likes the convenience of sending text messages by voice.

The faster battery consumption of the smartphone vs. the dumb phone startled my husband at first, but with a little power management, like adjusting the screen settings, he was able to get that issue under control.

My husband encountered a more serious problem after installing some games, an app for our local news, and an rss reader.  He was burning through data like nobody’s business.  He shut down all the apps – still using enormous amounts of data.  He uninstalled all the apps – same problem.  He went to the store where he bought the phone.  At first they said he wasn’t really using that much data, but he showed them that it was showing up on his monthly usage on AT&T’s website.  The manager of the store said that my husband’s basic $15, 200MB/mo. data plan was not intended for a smartphone (this is not true; my daughter and I each have an iPhone 4 with the same data plan and we don’t have any problem staying within our limit).  Next, my husband called AT&T’s tech support.  They agreed that the extreme data usage did not seem normal, but were not able to pinpoint the problem.  Next, he called Samsung’s tech support.  Basically, it was a waste of an hour and a half of his life.  They said that using exorbitant amounts of data while doing nothing was normal!?!?

This morning, my husband reset his phone to it’s factory setting and the problem seems to have been resolved.  He knew when he got an Android phone that he was going to have to watch out for malware.  I guess one of the free games he installed was malicious.  Have you ever had a similar problem?

The bottom line:  My husband loves the Galaxy SII, he just has to be more cautious when choosing apps to install.

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The Appeal of a Chromebook’s Simplicity

I enjoy writing lesson plans on my new Chromebook.

What drew me to getting a chromebook was it’s simple design, which led to ease of use.  A Chromebook is definitely a niche product.  You have to do your research before you buy one, but this is true of any tech purchase these days.  Analyze how you use your current device.

I got an iPad 2 to replace my netbook because the netbook was so slow starting up and launching software.  If I needed to check the weather or shoot out a quick email before school, I wouldn’t have time because it took so long to fire up the old netbook.  After using the iPad 2 for a couple of months, I noticed that I used it for:
1) School-word processing, spreadsheets, email, and online research
2) Blogging & YouTubeing
3) Entertainment-Netflix and surfing the web

The iPad 2 was perfect in every area except it wasn’t practical to type a math assignment in Apple’s word processor-Pages.  Again, I like things simple, and Pages is a simple, yet powerful word processor, but it lacks an equation editor for typing math problems.  Before purchasing the iPad 2, I did my research and found a way to work around the lack of an equation editor, but when I put it into practice, my workaround just wasn’t practical.

I had looked at Chromebooks briefly before I got the iPad, but chose the iPad because it was more portable.  Samsung’s Chromebook is instant on, has a great battery life (8.5 hrs), I can type math tests in Google Docs, and while I’m at it, I can update my calendar, and consult my lesson plans that I keep in a Google spreadsheet.  I can email my lesson plans to my principal directly from the spreadsheet, and I don’t have to worry about keeping my school computer synced with my home computer.  Everything is on Google Docs-I can access it anywhere.


Chromebook: First Impressions

It looks good.

My new Samsung Series 5 Chromebook came in this past Wednesday. I’ve been so busy with end of the quarter grading and parent/teacher conferences that I’m just now getting a chance to really play with it.

Here are some first impressions:

1) Nice size – The 12.1″ screen doesn’t feel cramped like my old netbook, but you don’t have to sacrifice portability.

2) Love the simplicity – Chrome OS seems like it will be a good fit for me. So far I don’t feel like I’m “missing” anything.

3) The price was right – I watched Series 5 prices on eBay for about a week while I sold my netbook and iPad 2. New chromebooks were selling for $360 to $400 including shipping. I got lucky and was able to get mine for $322 with free shipping. Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon are selling them for $499.

4) No need to buy software – When I bought my netbook, I also bought Office 2010 Student Edition ($80) in order to write math tests and lesson plans. When I bought my iPad 2, I had to by apps for those same tasks: Pages ($10), Numbers ($10), and MathBot ($5). Google Docs has all the features that I need for my school work…and it’s free!

5) Feels cheap – My iPad 2 felt heavy yet well made. The Series 5 feels heavy yet cheap. This isn’t a major issue for me, since my chromebook will not normally leave my house. For anyone who plans to tote it around, I would suggest a well padded bag.

Overall, I am pleased with my purchase. I used Google Docs on my school computer to write a couple of tests earlier this week, and I used a Google spreadsheet to write my lesson plans today. At the moment I’m writing this blog on my chromebook (I normally use my phone to compose posts…its nice to have a real keyboard for a change). So far, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has been a convenient, easy to use gadget.


My Chromebook Is On The Way!

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Isn’t this a beautiful machine?

I put Google Docs to the test last week. I sold my netbook and iPad in the midst of midterm exams, so I had to use Google Docs on my spouses desktop to type my tests. Typing an equation heavy math test was just as easy as using Microsoft Word on my old netbook, but I didn’t have to worry about saving a copy in Dropbox.
Using Google Docs was infinitely more convenient than using my iPad to create a math test.

I’ve mentioned before how much I loved my Gateway Lt2104u netbook with Microsoft Office for doing school work…but booting was just…too…slow. The instant on feature of the extremely portable iPad 2 was a welcome change. Doing lesson plans on a Numbers spreadsheet was fun, and Pages is a great word processor for a teacher…as long as you don’t teach math. I found a decent work around that allowed me to insert equations using an app called MathBot, but it just wasn’t practical for large numbers of equations. See my related video.

I debated between the iPad 2 and a Chromebook this summer, and decided to go with the iPad 2. The iPad 2 is a wonderful machine, it just lacked an equation editor in the word processor- a feature that less 1% of the population would ever notice (closer to 0% than 1%).

I’m quirky when it comes to gadget purchases. Even though Chromebooks are not as popular as iPads (understatement), I think the Chromebook will suit my needs. I just bought one on EBay today – factory sealed for $322 total (it would have been $499 from a retailer).


I Am One Step Closer To Getting A Chromebook.

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I’ve spent the last week researching Chromebooks. I played around with Google Docs yesterday after school to make sure that my school’s firewall didn’t block any of the Google stuff. Equations were easy to create and edit in the word processor. My lesson plans looked good when viewed in the spreadsheet. When I got home, my daughter informed me that she wanted to sell her Nintendo DS on eBay. I figured, what the heck, I’ll sell my iPad 2 and Gateway netbook while we’re at it. I got everything listed earlier this evening, now I’m having sellers remorse. I’m selling all my stuff so that I can buy a gadget that I’ve never played with or even seen in real life.

However, I have studied every spec and read or watched every review I could find. I’ve listened carefully to the many criticisms people have had with the Chromebooks, and they have not dissuaded me from getting one. I find the whole concept intriguing. I’ll let you know how practical a Chromebook is for school.

By the way, is there any reason I shouldn’t buy a new Chromebook on eBay?


Am I Crazy for Wanting to Replace My iPad with a Chromebook?

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No matter what I happen to be shopping for-car, clothes, gadgets-my options always lack one very small feature that ends up making the item near useless…at least that’s how it seems.

…I’ll find a car I like, but in order to get the one feature that makes that vehicle desirable, you have to buy the super luxury model that is out of my budget.

…I’ll find an article of clothing that I like, but the store won’t have my size.

…I’ll find my dream gadget (iPad 2), and it lacks one, tiny feature (no equation editor). This is only an issue because I’m a math teacher. I thought I had found a way around this problem, but my work around is not practical for a large number of equations in one document.

Here are some of the things I think I would like about a Chromebook:
-Google docs-has an equation editor.
-access to Dropbox.
-instant on.
-Netflix.
-free 100MB of 3G per month for 2 years!

The one thing I don’t like:
-can’t edit documents off-line.

Everything that I do on a computer, other than word processing, is on the web.

If you’ve used a Chromebook, let me know what you think.


Kindle Fire: Ideal College Textbook?

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Will the Kindle Fire be the breakout eTextbook of choice for college students?

Advantages it may have over the Nook Color and iPad:

1. Price-and to think, I was thrilled when it was announced that the Nook Color would be sold for $260. At $199, a student could justify buying the Kindle Fire and a nice laptop.

2. Amazon’s AppStore for Android-The delayed launch of Barnes and Noble’s app store for the Nook, along with it’s limited offering really hurt it.

3. More portable than an iPad.

I would love for my high school students to have something like the Kindle Fire as a textbook. Unfortunately, most of them do not have Internet at home. In addition to that, I don’t think that many of them could handle the responsibility (distraction) of having that level of Internet access at school.

Perhaps if students were introduced to eTextbooks at the right age, they could be taught the self discipline necessary to use them effectively.